For the first time Thailand has filed cybercrime complaints against social media giants Facebook and Twitter over their refusal to take down posts, as growing pro-democracy protests fuel unprecedented online discussion over taboo topics in the kingdom.
Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said on Thursday that he made the move after the two companies failed to comply with a 15-day deadline to implement content takedown orders.
“This is the first time we’re using the Computer Crime Act to take action against platforms for not complying with court orders,” the minister, named Puttipong Puttipong, told reporters.
“Unless the companies send their representatives to negotiate, police can bring criminal cases against them. But if they do, and acknowledge the wrongdoing, we can settle on fines.”
Late last month Facebook did take down an anti-royalist page with more than a million followers after a demand from the government. But it said it would challenge such requests and work to protect the rights of internet users.
Punnakanta had previously called out YouTube and Google too but only Facebook and Twitter were mentioned Thursday. He did not answer calls seeking additional comment from VICE News. Facebook declined to comment, and Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
The ministry also asked the police to prosecute five social media users who posted anti-monarchy content at the height of recent demonstrations.
The specific posts or the subject matter of the content was not specified. But the Computer Crime Act has been used to target critics of the country’s powerful monarchy, which is normally shielded by harsh lese-majeste laws punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Criticism of the monarchy and the military-backed government aligned with it has mushroomed in recent weeks as a youth-led pro-democracy movement no longer tiptoes around the topic.
Also on Thursday protesters gathered outside Thailand’s parliament as lawmakers were expected to debate various reforms demanded by movement leaders.