Govt's social media warning slammed

Govt's social media warning slammed

Media experts and netizens on Tuesday spoke out against the government's warning not to 'like' or share political postings on social media websites, insisting that neither action should be considered a crime.

The outrage was prompted by a statement made by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Anudith Nakornthap on Monday.

The minister said internet users need to be wary that clicking 'like' and sharing hearsay about possible coups and violence could be deemed as damaging national security, hence breaching the Internal Security Act and the Computer Crime Act.

According to the Computer Crime Act, perpetrators who import data to a computer system that is likely to damage the country's security or cause public panic face imprisonment and a fine.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul, head of the Thai Netizen Network, on Tuesday hit back at government, saying that the ICT minister's warning is a restraint on freedom of expression and shows how oppressive the Computer Crime Act can be.

"I do not want social media users to be too concerned over (the matter) or let this situation control our freedom of expression," she said.

She also pointed out that Mr Anudith needed to clarify the Computer Crime Act, because people are unable to distinguish what content could be considered in breach of national security or deemed to cause public chaos. 

Time Chuastapanasiri, a researcher at the Academic Institute of Public Media, insisted that individuals must be allowed to publicise their political opinions.

Sharing and 'liking' political messages should not be prohibited, he said. The government will be fighting a losing battle if they wish to take action against such normal social media behaviours, he added. 

"We have to understand that the country's security is totally different from the government's security.

"People can express their opinion about politics as long as they do not harm other people's rights and reputation. If they spread information that is defamatory, then they should be punished accordingly," he said.

Many netizens meanwhile expressed discontent with the ICT minister's warning.

One user wrote on her Facebook page that she is not a lie detector and that she has the right to press the 'like' button on any posting, despite not knowing whether the message is right or wrong.

Another user commented that people can no longer express their points of view, adding that personal opinions do not affect national security, while one poster wrote that the Computer Crime Act is no different from a tyrant's order to subdue anyone with differing views.

Paiboon Amornpinyokeat, a computer law expert, explained that the Computer Crime Act did not restrict people from expressing political opinion, but only states that messages must not commit lese majeste, overthrow the government or cause terrorism.

"If cyber users post or share messages relating to those three issues, they will be charged for violating the Computer Crime Act. Those clicking 'like' on the postings may be found guilty of conspiring to commit the crime," he said.

He advised social media users to exercise caution over how they react to postings. 

For example, if a person wrote that a coup will happen without providing any reliable evidence, people should ignore the message, said Mr Paiboon.

He added that Mr Anudith's warning was a psychological tactic to suppress anti-government groups led by the People's Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism, who have been staging a rally since Sunday.


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