Thailand endorses Twitter censorship: A step back for democracy?

The Thai government has officially endorsed Twitter's 'country-by-country' censorship policy, saying it is a "welcome development".
Written by Hana Stewart-Smith, Contributor

Thailand's government has officially endorsed Twitter's controversial decision to allow the censorship of tweets. It's a move that, if you've followed Thailand's previous stance on Facebook, is not all that surprising.

Jeerawan Boonperm, Thailand's ICT secretary, said that the Twitter censorship was a "welcome development."

Twitter's new policy works on a country-by-country basis, allowing restrictions of "certain types of content" for various "cultural reasons".

The move has been widely criticised across the Web, with many suggesting that Twitter's promise that the "tweets must flow" will be compromised by this policy.

Although Twitter has reassured users of the microblogging service they will be "transparent" over the reasons for blocking content, it remains to be seen what 'reasons' they will consider acceptable, and which they won't.

Thailand's government has previously been extremely proactive about censoring online content, and requested the removal of over 10,000 pages from Facebook last year, which were deemed offensive to the Royal family.

Thai citizens have been strictly warned about 'liking' anti-monarchy posts on the social networking site, as they could face up to 15 years in jail under the Computer Crimes Act.

Thai web users have to adhere to Thailand's strict lése-majesté laws, which prohibit citizens for making any comments or criticism's against the Royal family.

In 2006, the Royal family blocked YouTube, and requested the removal of 225 videos that violated the laws; only restoring the site when they had been successfully removed.

Taking into account Thailand's online censorship history, it could be suggested that the democracy is establishing itself as more similar to China than other, more-developed counterparts.

Japan, for example, has very little active censorship of content.

Although there was recently some controversy over the perceived censorship of Lady Gaga's New Year's performance, generally most censorship is 'self-inflicted' in Japan. This includes such as sensitive issues like crimes or natural disasters, or more famously, the censorship of an episode of Pokémon that caused seizures in 1997.

As it stands, the only major state motivated censorship in Japan is pornography, which is a far cry from the political, anti-monarchy censorship that is Thailand's focus.


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