Thai police seeking to monitor LINE messages

The technology crime suppression division plans to monitor chat messages to check for threats to national security, following the spread of rumors online about a military coup ahead of a planned protest.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
Thailand's police has sought cooperation from LINE Corporation to send records of chats between people on their smartphones.

The Thai police plan to monitor messages on mobile messenger LINE for perceived threats to national security.

According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Tuesday, the country's technology crime suppression division (TCSD) said it has sought cooperation from LINE Corporation, provider of the LINE messaging app, to send over records of chats between people on their smartphones.

"There's a new trend of people doing the wrong things on their smartphones through social media," Pisit Pao-iin, the police division's commander, said in the report. "TCSD is asking LINE to alert us an give us information if people chat or make comments that pose threats to national security."

The commander also said police already contacted LINE, and will follow up with the request. The police pointed out it would focus on suspicious activity and not pry into private conversations. "We'll leave innocent LINE app users alone," Pisit said.

The move comes after the police opened an investigation into four people for allegedly posting rumors on Facebook of a possible military coup last month. The rumor preceded a planned rally in Bangkok against an amnesty bill backed by the government to exonerate anyone prosecuted for political activities, urging the public to hoard food and water. The bill would have pave the way to clear former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, now in self-imposed exile overseas, of a two-year jail sentence.

However, LINE Corporation told The Nation it had not received any request from the Thai police. "Since LINE Corporation has not received any official request from the Thai police, we cannot provide any answers to the questions on this issue at this point," LINE said.

In China, LINE has already catered to authorities by incorporating a feature which detects politically sensitive phrases, following in the footsteps of Tencent-owned WeChat.

The move comes amid a wider clampdown on messaging apps by some countries such as Saudi Arabia, which has reportedly planned to block access to chat programs if they fail to comply with requirements set by the country's telecom regulator.

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