Facebook said it is planning legal action against Thailand’s demand that forced the company to block a group deemed critical of the country’s monarchy.
“After careful review, Facebook has determined that we are compelled to restrict access to content which the Thai government has deemed to be illegal,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business, referring to its decision to block Royalist Marketplace — a group with 1 million members featuring posts about the Thai royal family — from users in Thailand.
Facebook (FB) said it has been under pressure from the Thai government to restrict some types of political speech in the country, with the government threatening criminal proceedings against Facebook’s representatives in Thailand
The company said it is now considering legal action of its own.
“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” the spokesperson said. “We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.”
Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, which Facebook said it has been in discussions with, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under Thai law, defaming the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent can mean a 15-year jail sentence. The law has increasingly been used as a political tool, as ordinary Thai citizens — as well as the government — can bring charges on behalf of the King. Despite that, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in the country’s capital, Bangkok, in recent days, with some demanding reform of the country’s monarchy.
Royalist Marketplace was started by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an exiled Thai dissident based in Japan. Pavin did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN, but told Reuters that Facebook was “cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand.”
It’s the latest clash between Facebook and authorities around the world. The company is also facing parliamentary scrutiny in India, after a report last week by the Wall Street Journal revealed that a politician from India’s ruling party was allowed to remain on the platform despite flouting Facebook’s hate speech rules.
In the United States, Facebook’s decision to label some posts by President Donald Trump and take down posts by his campaign have sparked further controversy.
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