Facebook has blocked access to a Facebook group with one million members in Thailand at the insistence of the government. The group has criticized Thai King Rama X, who has come under pressure in recent weeks over popular protests.
The Facebook group in question was created in April by a Thai living in Japan who is critical of his country’s royal family. Thailand has one of the strictest rules against lese majesty worldwide. Insulting the king can lead to 15 years in prison.
Anyone who wants to visit the Royalist Marketplace Facebook page in Thailand now will see a notification that “Access to this group in Thailand has been restricted in accordance with a legal request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society”.
Facebook has announced that it wants to oppose the blockade. “Requests like these are harsh, go against international human right and make people less willing to express themselves,” said a spokesman.
The largest anti-government protests for years have taken place in Thailand. On Sunday, more than 10,000 people took to the streets in the capital Bangkok. They demand less royal power, a new constitution and an end to intimidation of opposition activists.
Thailand gave Facebook fifteen days
Thailand had given Facebook 15 days on August 10 to block Royalist Marketplace. A spokesperson for the ministry says Facebook has met the deadline because the company understands the Thai context.
By complying with the request, “Facebook is working with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivate authoritarianism (the form of government in which the citizen is subordinate to the state, ed.),” Said the creator of the Facebook group.
The man has been charged with computer crime by the Thai ministry, but has also created a new Facebook group with the same name. It has more than 455,000 members on Tuesday.