Thai regulator moves to ban Facebook if it doesn’t help with online censorship

The Thai Internet Service Provider Association (TIPSA) has said it is under pressure from the government to shut down Facebook in a row over censorship.

According to the Bangkok Post, the telco regulator is being pushed by the government to shut down the social media giant in the country if it does not comply with orders to remove illicit URLs or posts from its site. Facebook has bent to demands in the past, but it would appear it is standing firm with the latest series of demands and will be potential shut down should TIPSA make good on threats.

The initial deadline has passed, though the threat to disconnect the content delivery network still looms large. It might well be a bit of chest puffing, but it wouldn’t be the first time the government has disconnected the service in the country.

The military-run administration briefly cut access to Facebook after it launched a coup d’état on May 22, 2014, though online censorship has been increasing in recent months, especially any posts or comment perceived to violate the country’s strict lèse majesté laws, meaning royal insult. Each offence punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

“If the relevant Thai authorities find any illegal content from in our system – particularly the 131 URLs which have not yet been removed – concerned authorities will request that we shut down the CDN of and other parts of the network to block such illegal content. This action may affect the entire delivery services of to customers in Thailand,” TIPSA has said in an email to Facebook.

Facebook now finds itself in a relatively difficult position; ignore the government and have services cut off to one of the world’s more lucrative markets, or bow to demands, essentially facilitating censorship in the country, and face backlash from the rest of the world. There are two consequences, both of which have the potential to hurt the social media giant; the loss of revenues or a potential PR disaster.

Facebook opened an office in the country during 2015 and has 14.8 million users in Thailand, each spending an average of 2.35 hours a day on the social media site. This is actually 1.5 times higher than the amount of TV which is watched in the country.

So what is worse; financial loss or reputational damage? We might find out whether Zuckerberg is as much of a humanitarian as he claims.

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