Twitter Removes Nearly 1,000 Accounts Linked to Thai Military

The internet is fast becoming a new battleground in the Southeast Asian country's turbulent political history.
October 9, 2020, 9:15am
thai protest
Pro-democracy protesters hold up the three-finger "Hunger Games" salute on next to the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Sept. 20, 2020. PHOTO: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

Twitter said it dismantled nearly 1,000 accounts linked to the Thai army that were used to target opposition figures, as pro-democracy protests against the military-backed establishment gather force in the kingdom.

The social media giant said Thursday the network of 926 accounts violated its terms of service by "partaking in information operations that we can reliably link to the Royal Thai Army."

The accounts also amplified pro-military and pro-government content, though a study by Stanford University's Internet Observatory called the effort "low-impact" and pointed out that the majority of tweets received no engagement.

The internet has become a new battleground in Thailand's turbulent politics as young protesters test laws restricting criticism of the powerful monarchy and demand that the generals running the country allow democratic reforms.

Thailand's deputy army chief of staff denied any link with the information operations during an interview, calling its social media presence open and transparent.

The take down, which also involved similar operations in Cuba, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, comes weeks after Thailand's digital economy minister filed legal complaints against Facebook and Twitter over failures to comply with a government order to remove content.

The pro-democracy protests that erupted earlier this year sparked an unprecedented level of discussion over the role of the ultra-rich Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is protected by harsh royal defamation laws that carry a maximum sentence of 15 years.

But that discussion has also started moving beyond Thailand to Germany, where the king spends most of his time.

On Wednesday, German foreign minister Heiko Mass said Vajiralongkorn cannot make political decisions from the European country, though the impact of his statement on the king's residence there remains unclear. Parliamentarians cited the monarch's unprecedented move to oppose his sister's attempt to run for prime minister in 2019 elections.