FACTreview: Access Controlled-ONI

December 28, 2011




The Access series represents three edited volumes published by the OpenNet Initiative and MIT Press that document nearly a decade of extensive technical and in-field research on the trends and patterns shaping information controls around the world.

Access Denied

The practice and policy of global Internet filtering (2008) draws on results from the ONI’s first global survey of Internet censorship, documenting and analyzing Internet filtering practices in over three dozen countries. It stands as the first rigorously conducted study of state-based Internet censorship policies and practices.

Access Controlled

The shaping of power, rights, and rule in cyberspace (2010) updates and expands on Access Denied by presenting information controls that go beyond mere denial of information and aim to normalize (or even legalize) a climate of control. These next-generation techniques include strategically timed distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, targeted malware, surveillance at key points of the Internet’s infrastructure, take-down notices, and stringent terms-of-usage policies. Access Controlled investigates this spectrum of control in countries that make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as it is there, primarily, where some of the most important techniques of information control are emerging and a normative terrain is being set.

Access Contested

Security, identity, and resistance in Asian cyberspace (2011) examines the interplay of national security, social and ethnic identity, and resistance in Asian cyberspace, offering in-depth accounts of the unique national struggles against Internet controls in the region. The authors examine such topics as Internet censorship in Thailand, the Malaysian blogosphere, surveillance and censorship around gender and sexuality in Malaysia, Internet governance in China, corporate social responsibility and freedom of expression in South Korea and India, cyber attacks on independent Burmese media, and distributed-denial-of-service attacks and other digital control measures across Asia.

[FACT comments: To be honest, we think ONI has blown it for the third time, at least about Thailand. Our December 16 letter to them follows:

Dear Colleagues,

Thai activists have been disappointed again by your conclusions regarding Internet censorship. In fact, we have complained about those very same conclusions in Access Denied and Access Controlled and now repeated in Access Contested.\

The world is a big place, my friends, and we do not accuse you of any ill-intent. However, with rare exceptions such as Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, international free speech NGOs pay scant attention to our normal, daily conditions here.

Our major gripe is that, for the third time, you failed to question any of us in Thailand about censorship. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is certainly most aware of the state of Internet blocking by all government agencies but you might also rely on the iLaw Foundation for its annual assessments of Web blocking using the Computer Crimes Act 2007 by analysing the court orders required by that law. It appears you are relying only upon Herdict statistics; we think those barely scratch the surface.

It’s good you think that Thailand deserves mention, that we remain among your handful of countries. However, we think you make Thailand a vastly undervalued censor state.

Numbers of blocked URLs alone, of course, do not a police state make. ONI seems to have a policy of ignoring social censorship such as pornography, perhaps fearing detractors dismissing all the rest. However, Thailand’s social censorship works in ways you have not even considered such as clothing and dress-code censorship, religious censorship, lèse majesté. We’re sure you have not discovered the wholesale block, for instance, of Thai online pharmacies because they offer the morning-after pill. RU-486 is illegal in Thailand despite the fact that we have the world’s second-highest number, after the USA, of course, of teen pregnancies.

You obviously have not considered the charges (and five-year prison sentence after your publication) against an American citizen born in Thailand for merely posting four hyperlinks on his weblog to the introduction and three chapters of Thai translations of a book banned in Thailand, The King Never Smiles, published at Yale. The content itself was not examined for the defamation, insults or threats necessitated in the precision of law.

FACT thinks there is pervasive filtering of political, social, conflict and security and Internet tools categories. Furthermore, we say there is NO transparency of government censorship (forget “low”!), although we concede you “medium” consistency. You surely must have read that some politicians are pushing for a complete block of social networking, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This might be hard for you in the West to take seriously unless one remembers that all of YouTube was blocked for seven months in 2007.

Although you state our CCA is being “employed as a political tool”, you greatly understate the numbers and seem to rely only on the statistics from CCA court orders compiled by iLaw (which you fail to mention) and fail to include the huge censorship by the military agencies CRES and CAPO in 2010. We further find no mention of FACT’s work in your writing nor the fact that we tested the CAT ISP for your April-May 2010 round. This makes only three, of 125 ISPs. FACT is, of course, both ONI-Asia’s and TNN’s partner. We certainly noted that no Thai names had been consulted.

For your information, FACT’s analysis shows that 761,416 URLs were blocked on December 5, including 96,000 Facebook pages, rising at a rate of 690 every day. Not one webpage has been unblocked since the rule of law, including the CCA, was suspended by emergency powers April 10 – December 23, 2010.


FACT again this year petitioned Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission for full disclosure of Internet censorship. Of course, we’re not holding our breath: this was mostly political exercise.


You’re still missing the boat, my friends. A cursory analysis of political history shows that countries fall to dictatorship in an instant—look at the Khmer Rouge. We think Thailand is an incipient Burma making the same mistakes.


We can only urge you to do better next time. And we’re happy to help.




CJ Hinke


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