In the episode of this week “Does the social network keep it up or pull it down?. After being threatened by the Thai government for violating local laws around defaming the ruling monarch, the company has removed a Facebook group with more than 1 million members according to a report from The Guardian.
In April, academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a critic of the Thai government and its king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, who now lives in Japan, created the group, called “Royalist Marketplace.” The group was however restricted on Monday based on a legal request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand. The party was committed to addressing Vajiralongkorn and over the last four months, it had accrued more than one million participants, the study reports.
Thailand has rules against the king being punishable by up to 15 years in prison, states The Guardian. The government on August 10 gave Facebook almost two weeks under the country’s Cyber Technology Act, a notorious piece of legislation enacted in 2016, to comply with its removal order or incur penalties of about $6,300 a day.
After close study, Facebook has concluded that we are required to block links to content considered unlawful by the Thai Government. These demands are serious, contravene international human rights legislation and have a chilling impact on the freedom of people to express them, “a spokeswoman for Facebook said in a statement. The excessive policy acts like this often hinder our capacity to spend efficiently in Thailand, including holding an office, safeguarding our workers, and directly helping Facebook-based companies.
These are hard debates, and there are no easy answers. But the reaction from the company isn’t all too surprising. Facebook has long prided itself as a bastion for free expression — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said his company is seeking to find a middle course between moderating the site as a free-for-all unrestricted expression that could inflict real-world damage and a censorious responsibility that violates civil and human rights. He’s also evoked China’s challenge as a justification why Facebook appears not to focus on speech when other analysts think it does.
Yet in fact, it has also been seen by Facebook to stop making moves that would weaken it strategically. It’s also cool with censorship and defers to local officials instead of facing financial penalties or, worse, closing down access to the web in a foreign country. That’s amid possible human rights abuses that might emerge like the disastrous incident in Myanmar, where military authorities used hate speech on Facebook to encourage their real-world genocide of the Muslim Rohingya minority community.
It has also recently been revealed that one of the company’s Indian policy lobbyists, Ankhi Das, has granted preferential treatment to politicians belonging to India’s ruling regime party, some of whom have been peddling violent hate speeches towards Muslims.