Facebook blocks access to group criticizing Thailand king after government threat

Facebook will study whether its algorithms are racially biased

In this week’s episode of “should the social network leave it up or take it down?” we’ve got Facebook wading into one other thorny moderation state of affairs, this time in Thailand. According to a report from The Guardian, the corporate has eliminated a Facebook group with greater than 1 million members after it was threatened by the Thai authorities for violating native legal guidelines round defaming the ruling monarch.

The group, known as “Royalist Marketplace,” was created in April by educational Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a critic of the Thai authorities and its king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, who now lives in Japan. However, on Monday, the group was restricted primarily based on a authorized request from Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. The group was devoted to discussing Vajiralongkorn and it had amassed greater than 1 million members prior to now 4 months, the report states.

Thailand has legal guidelines in opposition to criticizing its monarch punishable with as much as 15 years in jail, The Guardian experiences. The authorities on August 10th gave Facebook about two weeks to adjust to its takedown order or danger fines of roughly $6,300 per day underneath the nation’s Computer Crime Act, a controversial piece of legislation passed in 2016.

“Our group is part of a democratization process, it is a space for freedom of expression,” Pavin said in an interview with Reuters. “By doing this, Facebook is cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand.”

“After careful review, Facebook has determined that we are compelled to restrict access to content which the Thai government has deemed to be illegal. Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” a Facebook spokesperson stated in a press release given to The Verge. “We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request. Excessive government actions like this also undermine our ability to reliably invest in Thailand, including maintaining an office, safeguarding our employees, and directly supporting businesses that rely on Facebook.”

These debates are tough, and there are not any straightforward solutions. But the corporate’s response will not be all too stunning. Facebook has typically prided itself as a bastion totally free speech — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated his firm tries to chart a center path between moderating the platform as a complete speech free-for-all that might trigger real-world hurt and a censorious legal responsibility that infringes on civil and human rights. He’s additionally evoked the specter of China as a purpose why Facebook tends to not take motion on speech when many critics suppose it ought to.

But in apply, Facebook has proven it typically avoids making choices that drawback it politically. It’s additionally comfy with censorship and defers to native governments relatively than danger monetary penalty or, even worse, shutting down access to the platform out of the country. That’s regardless of potential human rights abuses which will come up just like the catastrophic episode in Myanmar, the place ruling members of the army used hate speech on Facebook to advertise its real-world genocide of the minority Muslim Rohingya inhabitants.

In the US, this has performed out within the type of high Facebook executives like coverage chief Joel Kaplan personally intervening in third-party fact-checks to make sure conservative pages and people don’t obtain suspensions or bans. One of the corporate’s Indian coverage lobbyists, Ankhi Das, was additionally lately proven to have given preferential treatment to politicians belonging to the get together of India’s ruling regime, a few of whom had been peddling harmful hate speech in opposition to Muslims. After a journalist criticized her by sharing a hyperlink to a Wall Street Journal story on Facebook, Das filed a felony criticism him and 5 others, claiming she was endangered by their feedback.

Update August 24th, 6PM ET: Added assertion from Facebook.

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