Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered internet service providers to immediately block the internet access of anyone who propagates information that may frighten people.
The order, issued under the emergency situation decree, was published in the Royal Gazette on Thursday night and takes effect on Friday.
It prohibits anyone from "reporting news or disseminating information that may frighten people or intentionally distorting information to cause a misundertstanding about the emergency situation, which may eventually affect state security, order or good morality of the people.”.
Under the order, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) shall notify internet service providers to check from which IP address such information has come. After that, the ISPs are to notify the NBTC and block internet access of the IP address in question.
The NBTC will then give the information to the police for legal action.
Academics earlier criticised the announcement that gives Gen Prayut the power to issue such an order. They argued no one should be prosecuted for sharing truthful information, even when it is frightening.
Under normal channels, authorities, mainly the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, ask the court to ban content suspected to be illegal. If the court approves by issuing an order, the operator of the platform hosting the content shall be asked to comply.
The new order speeds up the process of censoring by requiring the ISPs to block the content immediately before legal action is taken.
However, it is unclear how authorities can achieve this since most home users are assigned different IP addresses, or dynamic IPs, each time he turns on a router or after using the internet for a predefined period of time, known only to the ISPs.
Blocking one IP address, therefore, does not mean a user won’t be able to use another IP. He could be stopped only by having his internet account suspended altogether. Besides, a virtual private network (VPN) service can always be used to mask the IP address of a user.