MICT gets its mitts on your bird-Bangkok Post

February 7, 2012

SOCIAL MEDIA

ICT to lay down law on Twitter accounts

Suchit Leesa-Ngunansuk & Komsan Tortermvasana

Bangkok Post: January 30, 2012

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/277391/ict-to-lay-down-law-on-twitter-accounts

The Information and Communication Technology Ministry will work with Twitter to ensure that tweets disseminated in Thailand are in compliance with local law.

One of the first tweets from Thailand after the Twitter announcement that it could censor users country-by-country.

ICT permanent secretary Jeerawan Boonperm said Twitter’s move to censor or block content regarded as offensive in particular countries was a “welcome development”.

The ICT Ministry will contact Twitter shortly to discuss ways in which they could collaborate, she said.

Mrs Jeerawan added the ICT already receives “good cooperation” from companies such as Google and Facebook in ensuring that Thai laws are respected.

Twitter last week announced it would allow country-specific censorship of content that may violate local laws.

The company, which insists that it remains committed to free speech, has attracted a firestorm of criticism from freedom advocates.

Under the new system, a tweet from a Thai poster could be blocked in the Kingdom at the request of the government, a company or an individual.

The ICT has blocked thousands of websites in recent years, mainly for violating pornography laws or the lese majeste law.

Local users, meanwhile, expressed dismay at the policy change.

Sombat Boonngamanong, a self-described red shirt supporter who uses the name @nuling, said he believed content censorship was appropriate in the case of human rights violations or criminal activity, but not for expressing political views.

He speculated the change was aimed at supporting Twitter’s expansion in China as well as limiting the company’s legal liability.

“It’s a dangerous and sensitive issue to censor political views,” he said.

“Twitter’s business value depends on the number of its users and the content generated by users. If there is censorship, how can we be confident in the judgement or standards used to make these decisions?”

Paiboon Amonpinyokeat, a computer law expert, agreed that while censorship of tweets might help ease legal disputes, it may come at the expense of online freedom of speech.

Courts or governments could already petition Twitter to block content or users, without the need for censorship.

Supachai Parchariyanon, managing director of McFiva, a local media agency for Twitter, said the policy change is aimed at supporting Twitter’s growth while ensuring compliance with government regulations.

The system will allow screening before a tweet is publicised or allow blocking after a tweet is made, he said.

“The system can automatically filter most mentions or retweeted messages,” Mr Supachai said, adding that while the current system depends on government requests for tweets to be blocked or removed, the new system will be faster as it will be self-censoring.

He said violations of the lese majeste law would almost certainly be censored, but noted that, in practice, the 140-character limit for tweets makes the system less popular as a medium for political expression.

Chavarong Limpattamapanee, president of the Thai Journalists Association, expressed understanding for the new policy.

“Local users must still comply with local law. Freedom of speech is a human right, but this freedom is not borderless. One must be responsible,” he said.

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