Facebook accused of censorship

Facebook accused of censorship

activists boycott social media giant

In this March 15, 2013, file photo, a Facebook employee walks past a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. (AP photo)
In this March 15, 2013, file photo, a Facebook employee walks past a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. (AP photo)

Rights activists have slammed Facebook's security policies after the social media giant was suspected of cooperating with the military government on imposing censorship.

Over the past few days, a growing number of activists and academics in and outside Thailand announced they were switching to Minds.com and would deactivate their Facebook accounts as a sign of protest.

Labour rights advocate Junya Yimprasert, who is based in Europe, on Friday posted a message on her profile in which she urged the Thai public to disconnect from Facebook as the company had "prioritised profit over its users' privacy".

One of eight junta critics detained by the military on April 27 reportedly said authorities had shown him screen captures of his private Facebook chat as evidence of his anti-government stance, raising questions about the platform's security policies. A page satirising the monarchy was blocked by the site itself.

"The situation for Thai Facebook users is very alarming at the moment," Ms Junya told the Bangkok Post Sunday. Users must respond by objecting to Facebook's practices.

She said Facebook, along with other social media channels, was an essential tool for political activists to follow news, communicate and exchange political views. But lately in Thailand it had become dangerous.

A large number of criminal charges have been filed against individuals accused of criticising the junta or monarchy on social media or through private chat messages, as the NCPO tightened online surveillance.

In January, a state-mandated media reform assembly asked Facebook and Line to shut down content deemed offensive without a court warrant.

"A boycott [by protesters] will show Facebook that its site is not our only choice and that we can seek alternatives if it does not care about its consumers," Ms Junya said. "When there are other apps that provide the same communications platform and are more secure, they are worth trying."

Last January, a group of political activists including Ms Junya submitted an open letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to appraise him of the situation in Thailand. They did not receive a reply.

The Thai Netizens Network, an internet freedom advocacy group, launched a petition on Friday on Change.org, seeking answers from Facebook regarding its recent compromises with the junta. So far, 1,690 people have signed the petition.

The network cited recent "Government Request Reports" by Facebook, which detail cases in which authorities requested data or cooperation from the social media platform.

According to one of the reports shared in the online petition, Facebook agreed to shut down content in 35 cases in 2014 at the government's request, 30 of which occurred after the junta seized power.

Between 2013 and 2015, Thai authorities demanded Facebook reveal the private data of 16 users. The outlet said it did not consent to give any information in those cases.

The petition seeks to obtain answers from Facebook regarding its standards and practices, as well as higher transparency and disclosure.

"Facebook users all over the world should be concerned about their privacy," Ms Junya said.

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