No use in cops giving online agitators a licking
published : 11 May 2013 at 00:00
newspaper section: News
What do licking your own elbow and policing the internet have in common? They are both impossible. However, they are both things that certain groups of people wish they could do.
I am sure that after this week, Thai authorities are particularly interested in licking their elbows. Sorry, I mean policing the internet. If it were truly possible to regulate all cyber content, then we wouldn't have the embarrassing situation of hacked government websites, videos of police accepting bribes and prostitutes selling their services over the worldwide web.
In a country where bad things never happen because "the truth" upsets too many people, the internet poses quite a problem for people with power. Thank God for the internet.
While I do not support the recent hacking of the Office of the Prime Minister's website or the derogatory message that was aimed at our country's PM, I do think there is a silver lining to this dark cloud.
Previously, minorities have lacked a platform to express their views; the internet gives them a stage. If you don't like the message, then blame the society that allows people to learn the skills to hack a government website, but not the intelligence to do anything productive with that skill.
When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, or international hacker network Anonymous, take to the internet, do you think they waste their time scrawling profanities across government homepages, or do they do something productive? Whether you agree with their actions or not, at least they have a clear agenda.
Furthermore, why is it that someone who most likely enjoys telling "your mama" jokes can outsmart the tech geeks that set up the Office of the Prime Minister's website in the first place? There is clearly something wrong with the government's IT department.
So in one fairly lame move we now know the government sucks at computers and that some people are not happy with our PM. Granted most people know that a large section of society is not completely satisfied with our current government, but where in the mass media do you hear that being said outside of anti-red newspapers and parliamentary debates that nobody watches?
You certainly can't stop hackers hacking, but if you want to reduce the chances of abusive messages being written all over your government's website, give the people a place to be heard. Give people a platform, something that is theirs, something they don't want to lose, and they might be a little more productive. Don't beef up your internet Swat team.
The same goes for the feigned outrage regarding the discovery that pimps are selling sex through Facebook. Also, apparently, the sky is blue.
Let me say this now: sex was, is and will always be on sale in Thailand. Do the police take the issue seriously? Not so much. The police will occasionally bring their A-game when the crime involves forced prostitution or children. But with regards to massage parlours and consenting adults, the police either don't try or have failed to put a stop to people selling their bodies in the interests of pleasure.
Now depending on your stance on prostitution, you are both shocked and outraged at this story, or you have stopped reading and are checking Facebook and making plans for tonight. Personally, I am saddened that the police think they can avoid committing to this case.
In a recent interview, Technology Crime Suppression Division deputy commander Santipat Prommajul said police were not being idle, particularly in respect to online prostitution.
"The online sex trade violates the Criminal Code and the Computer Crime Act, but we cannot make an arrest because they are just showing pictures," Pol Lt Col Santipat said.
Now a friend of mine has spent some time looking at these Facebook pages and he, my friend, says they don't just show pictures. They display phone numbers, prices, lists of skills and clear statements regarding the nature of the service. Even girls as young as 13 can be found selling their bodies on Facebook. I'm not a policeman, but I would have thought this is an arrestable offence.
Prostitution is still very much illegal here in Thailand and for the police to take such a laid-back attitude to this situation does not inspire me with confidence that our law enforcement is overly committed to enforcing the law.
Again, without the internet to highlight this for all to see, we would only have the word of Pol Lt Col Santipat to go by. It is time to air the dirty laundry and expose the incompetence. Much like the viral video of a police officer allegedly accepting bribes at Bearing BTS station that is circulating online, authorities can no longer sweep everything under the rug.
We need to stop insanely trying to lick our elbows. Policing the internet is not an option, the only choice is to accept mistakes and admit that occasionally the Thai way will not work in an age where everyone can see what we are doing. The public now has a place to air their opinions, voice their displeasure and act outside the law. Don't ignore it, deal with it.
Arglit Boonyai is Digital Media Editor, Bangkok Post.