Facebook outage stirs fury

Facebook outage stirs fury

A one-hour outage of Facebook yesterday sparked a public outcry against violation of people's rights to access the internet.

Authorities and the military junta, however, denied having a hand in it and blamed a technical glitch for the nationwide blackout of the world's largest social media site.

Facebook was found to have been unreachable nationwide from 3.50pm to 4.40pm. This prompted criticism on other social media channels to erupt. Streams of phone calls were made to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and other internet providers to seek an explanation for the shutdown.

Facebook is the most popular social media site in Thailand with 26 million users, 17 million of whom use it every day.

The incident raised concerns that the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) was trying to stop anti-coup groups from using social media to incite opposition. The concern was fuelled by messages shared earlier yesterday on social media that Facebook was to be blocked in the afternoon.

Users also blasted the outage for having a negative impact on online business on the site.

Surachai Srisarakam, permanent secretary of the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, denied Facebook had been asked to block its server. He also said the ministry had not forced local internet service providers (ISPs) to shut down the site.

He said the shutdown was because traffic to Facebook overloaded the servers and internet gateways of local ISPs, leading to service disruption.

Overall internet gateway systems had been fixed and normal service resumed before 5pm, he said. The junta insisted it has no policy to block Facebook and blamed a technical glitch for the blackout.

NCPO spokesman Winthai Suvaree clarified the matter in a televised announcement on TV Pool that the inability to access Facebook resulted from a technical problem.

He said the NCPO had assigned the Information and Communication Technology Ministry to fix the problem. However, an industry source conceded that the NCPO yesterday ordered the shutdown of Facebook but declined to give further details.

Thai Netizen Network spokesman Arthit Suriyawongkul said the brief outage of Facebook a day after the NCPO announcement that they have set up a panel to examine internet traffic has naturally prompted people to believe that the military played a role in yesterday's shutdown.

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