FACT supports US Global Online Freedom Bill
April 4, 2012
The Honourable Chris Smith
Chair, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on
Africa, Global Health and Human Rights
US House of Representatives
Dear Mr. Smith:
I, too, am from New Jersey. I grew up in Nutley. However, I moved to Thailand as an academic in 1989.
Internet censorship in Thailand has impacted my own academic research and rendered Thai students’ Master’s theses and Doctoral dissertations unable to compete internationally.
My several letters on this issue to the Secretary of State, whose annual addresses on Internet freedom have proven to be nothing but lip-service, have gone unanswered. America only talks the talk not walks the walk to defend freedom of expression everywhere.
In 2006, Internet censorship became an issue I could no longer ignore, so I founded Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT). Our achievements in six years are that censorship is far worse than before. However, before FACT, no one was talking about rampant censorship and now it is a hot-button issue here.
According to our research, Thai government blocked 839,556 webpages as of March 20, rising by about 690 new blocks every day. The blocklists, the numbers of URLs blocked, the reasons for blocking, even the court orders legitimising the censorship are all kept secret from Thai citizens.
Over 500 Thais, and one American, Joe Gordon, have been prosecuted under Draconian lèse majesté laws, often using the Computer Crimes Act. Very close to 100% of such cases result in convictions, the longest sentence so far for 20 years. Most recently, Thai government seeks to expand its definition of criminality to include third-party liability with the same penalties. Comments posted to your website or hyperlinks can put you in jail.
The Computer Crimes Act was the first law passed by a government appointed by the 2006 military coup d’etat. It has never been used for anything other than lèse majesté prosecutions.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)’s petition against all censorship has gained more than 1,500 signatories and we teach circumvention strategies with a mailing list of more than 10,000.
The current Thai government’s proposal is to spend THB400 million, $13 million USD, on hardware to further censor Thailand’s Internet. This strikes at the core of your bill, Mr. Smith.
Freedom House has declared Thailand “not free” and Reporters Without Borders has placed Thailand “under surveillance”. I would go much further: Thailand is an enemy of a free Internet and a major censor state.
A free Internet is our human right. Will you help us, Sir?
Thank you for your kind attention.
Please reply by email rather than post.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)