Thailand sues Facebook, Twitter for allowing banned material

BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand’s government lodged complaints with police on Thursday against Facebook and Twitter, alleging they failed to comply with court orders to block content judged illegal under Thai law.

Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta said at a news conference that it was the first time his ministry has taken such action against the social media companies under Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. It has prosecuted website and account owners and users in the past.

The ministry filed the complaints at the police Technology Crime Suppression Division, where Buddhipongse said the companies had failed to meet 15-day deadlines issued by the courts to block hundreds of accounts.

He said the targetted sites were banned because they contained illegal content related to online gambling, pornography, drugs or the monarchy, a highly sensitive subject.

The ministry also filed complaints against parties using five accounts to disseminate material considered offensive during a large anti-government rally this past weekend.

Buddhipongse said Facebook had blocked access in Thailand to 215 of the 661 accounts his ministry had requested. Twitter had blocked four of 69 accounts, he said.

Deputy Chief of the Technology Crime Suppression Division Police Colonel Siriwat Deepor said the two companies could face fines of not more than THB200,000 (USD6,325) and an additional daily fine of THB5,000 (USD158) for each day the accounts remain unblocked.

Kate Hayes, a spokeswoman for Facebook’s Asia-Pacific operations, said the company did not have any comment for now on the Thai action. A spokesman for Twitter could not be reached.

In August, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society successfully pressured Facebook to block a popular page about the monarchy.

“We are protecting our sovereignty, which may not mean protecting physical borders in the traditional sense but rather… protecting our cyber sovereignty,” Buddhipongse said at the time.