Thailand gives ISPs authority to block content at will

Thai authorities have instructed the country's internet service providers to monitor and remove online content, without the need to obtain prior approval, that are offensive to the government and royal family.

With great power comes great responsibility, but power have taken on a somewhat different meaning in Thailand where Internet service providers (ISPs) now have the "authority" to remove online content without prior approval from authorities.

The new ruling was approved at a joint meeting between the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), law enforcement, and major internet service operators in the country. Previously, the police would have to obtain a court order seeking permission to block a website or webpage, according to a report by Bangkok Post.

Under the new policy, which includes social media content such as Facebook and Twitter, ISPs are required to monitor and censor online content that threaten national security or regarded offensive to the Thai government and monarchy.

After removing or blocking a webpage, ISPs are to immediately report the incident to the NBTC and Information and Communication Technology Ministry. If they are unsure whether a piece of content falls under the country's lese majeste laws, the ISPs can seek the advice of the commission's staff dedicated to oversee the new policy.

"We'd like to ask everyone to check carefully before posting or sharing anything on the internet. They can also report offensive content by sending email to report.nbtc@gmail.com," NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith said. The Bangkok Post report noted that the latest move was seen to be a response to the lack of cooperation from foreign media companies to block content deemed offensive by the local government.

Thailand is currently under military rule following a martial law that began in May. According to an AFP report, General Prawit Wongsuwan had warned earlier this month that his government would shut down media outlets that refused to comply with the military's goal for "national reconciliation".

The new policy will be enforced by the local police, the report said, adding that Thailand has strict lese majeste rules that prohibit people from defaming or insulting the monarchy. It noted the current administration has filed 93 lese majeste charges and shut down 392 websites.

Just this week, two Thai students aged 23 and 25 admitted to insulting the monarchy during a play performed in October 2013, which was about a fictional king and his advisor. They were arrested only in August this year and now face up to 15 years in jail.

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