Amnesty International has condemned the decision by Facebook to comply with censorship requests from the Thai authorities.
“Once again, Facebook is caving to the whims of repressive governments while making meek appeals to human rights, setting another dangerous precedent for freedom of expression online,” Rasha Abdul-Rahim, Amnesty Tech’s Acting Program Co-Director said in a statement.
Rasha Abdul-Rahim said Facebook must do everything within its power to resist the Thai authorities’ arbitrary censorship demands.
“Human rights, not market access, must be the ultimate bottom line.
“It’s welcome that Facebook is now planning legal action to challenge the government’s censorship demands, but the harm has already been done: the company should not have given in to the demands in the first place.
“The Thai government’s threats of legal action to force Facebook to cooperate in online censorship amount to yet another assault on freedom of expression online. As an Amnesty report in April 2020 showed, Thailand has developed an array of vague and menacing laws to sow fear into people’s social media use.
“The Thai authorities must cease their harassment of peaceful protesters, both online and in the streets. As protests continue to gain in scale, we urge the Thai authorities to engage in constructive dialogue and to respect the rights to freedom of assembly and expression.”
On August 25, 2020, Facebook announced that they reluctantly complied with a request from the Thai authorities to restrict access to content.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the request from the Thai authorities “contravene[s] international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves. We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request” – although the nature of the legal challenge was not specified.
In April 2020, Amnesty International issued They are always watching, a report showing how the Thai authorities have prosecuted social media users who criticize the government and monarchy in a systematic campaign to crush dissent.
Also in April, Facebook announced it had complied with takedown requests from the Vietnamese authorities of content deemed critical of the government.