Government denies any links to @TwitterThailand account

Government denies any links to @TwitterThailand account

A screen grab shows the @TwitterThailand account greeting followers and saying 'Thanks for the warm welcome' after being launched by Twitter on Wednesday as a platform for discussion on issues related to the kingdom. But a lot of Twitter users have given it flak, fearing their freedom of expression will be threatened.
A screen grab shows the @TwitterThailand account greeting followers and saying 'Thanks for the warm welcome' after being launched by Twitter on Wednesday as a platform for discussion on issues related to the kingdom. But a lot of Twitter users have given it flak, fearing their freedom of expression will be threatened.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said the government is not involved in the creation of Twitter's @TwitterThailand, a handle created by the company to disseminate information on the kingdom.

A DES Ministry source said the government did not sanction the creation of the account.

"We had no idea about this account and why it was launched," the source said. "The government uses Twitter to learn about public opinion on state policies."

"We also use the platform to disseminate accurate news and information," the source added.

@TwitterThailand went live on Wednesday and features information in Thai and English to foster conversation on happenings in the kingdom, according to Arvinder Gujral, Southeast Asia managing director for Twitter.

"With major news stories [...] Twitter usage in Thailand continues to grow across a broad demographic and interest-range incorporating entertainment, music, sports, gaming, food, beauty and much more," Mr Gujral said.

However, critics have questioned the purpose of the account, accusing the government of using the handle to gag freedom of expression.

Doubts were expressed after DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta was spotted with Twitter executives and other social media representatives, including Facebook, in Singapore to seek cooperation to combat "fake news".

Mr Buddhipongse could not be reached for comment at press time on Friday.

Critics are asking why the Twitter account was launched as the government is putting off implementation of part of the controversial Personal Data Protection Act for another year.

They also pointed out that the display photo of the account bears the colours of the Thai flag, similar to that of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party.

A Twitter employee who declined to be named told the Bangkok Post that the account has no connection with the government.

The source said the company believes in impartiality and "does not take actions based upon political viewpoints".

"In Thailand, we work with a number of different journalistic, social activists and non-government organisations to develop a more effective and engaging presence on Twitter," the source added.

When asked about the display photo, the source said it bears the colours of the national flag.

"The flag consists of five horizontal stripes and the profile photo adopts these stripes to be the circles around the Twitter logo, shown in the same order as they appear on the national flag," the source said.

Twitter has dozens of official country accounts, including for India, Japan and Singapore.

Pacharee Permvongusawa, the digital business unit head of Publicis Media, said there are around 12 million Twitter users in Thailand, main of them youngsters.



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