NRSA member eyes 'censorship' tax perks

NRSA member eyes 'censorship' tax perks

A key member of the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) is working with other government agencies on a carrot-and-stick plan to oblige global cyber giants to quickly remove content deemed offensive and illegal under Thai law from their platforms. 

Pol Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, chairman of the NRSA's sub-committee on online media reform, said Monday his plan would involve a favourable tax rate on advertising revenues in exchange for compliance with government requests.   

In a phone interview with the Bangkok Post, Pol Maj Gen Pisit said there are many social media companies and internet giants that "strongly desire" to invest in Thailand, but face many legal obstacles.

He said his plan, which must be discussed with the Excise Department and the NRSA's economic committee, will facilitate and accelerate their investment with tax incentives and exemptions for companies that comply with the government's online media policy -- beneficial for both parties.

Last month, Pol Maj Gen Pisit, and other members of the sub-committee, met Google executives who later submitted a list of concerns, including unease over Section 15 of the Computer Crime Act, which requires the internet platform to share responsibility with the culprit if a crime is committed.

Pol Maj Gen Pisit said his team would petition the government to find a solution to meet the company's wishes. The same assistance will be provided to other platforms, he said.

The meeting drew heavy criticism from media activists. Google's media relations office was not available for comment.

Despite endless efforts to clamp down on content deemed defamatory to the monarchy, such material is available on social media sites whose servers are located abroad, meaning the government cannot block them. 

In an earlier interview with Inside Thailand radio show, Pol Maj Gen Pisit said the reformers are also looking for ways to "engage" in communications between users of Line, an instant messaging app.

"Communication between two people and more is considered in the public domain," he said.

Line is very popular in Thailand with more than 33 million users, the second-largest market in the world after Japan.

Line Thailand said it was aware of reports regarding a request for censorship but has not been officially contacted yet.

If approached, the company would consider an appropriate solution that does not conflict with the company's global standards.

"The privacy of Line users is our top priority," said a statement released Monday by Line Thailand.

The Media Reform Committee's recent move is more worrisome than the junta's previous attempts to negotiate with international social media companies, Yingcheep Atchanont, coordinator of the rights advocacy group Internet Law Reform Dialogue argued.

While it is the government's right to offer a free trade policy to lure foreign investors, he fears user privacy will no longer be respected if such an agreement moves forward.

If companies accept the government's requirements in exchange for investment opportunities, then the companies should declare their intentions to the public, he said.

"If they change policy, the internet giants must make their revised terms of use known to users, in order for them to understand what consequences will follow." According to free market rules, if users are dissatisfied with those conditions they can always switch service providers, he added.


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