Prime Minister of Thailand wants to silence ‘panic mongers’
Prime Minister Prayut has ordered Internet service providers to immediately block the Internet access of anyone disseminating information that could scare people. The order issued under the emergency decree was published last night in the Royal Gazette and will come into effect today.
It prohibits anyone from “reporting news or disseminating information that could frighten people or intentionally distort information to create a misunderstanding of the emergency, which could ultimately affect state security, public order or people’s morals.”
Under the order, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will notify Internet service providers to verify which IP address such information is coming from.
After that, the ISPs must inform the NBTC and block the internet access of the respective IP address. The NBTC then passes the information on to the police for legal action.
Thai academics have previously criticized the announcement giving Prayut the power to issue such an order. They argue that no one should be prosecuted for sharing truthful information, even if it is scary.
The normal procedure is for the authorities, especially the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, to ask the court to ban content suspected of being illegal. If the court approves by issuing an injunction, the operator of the platform hosting the content will be asked to comply.
The new order speeds up the censorship process by requiring ISPs to immediately block content before taking legal action. However, it is unclear how authorities can achieve this as most home users are assigned different IP addresses or dynamic IPs each time they turn 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 that a user cannot use another IP address. He could only be stopped by having his internet account suspended altogether. In addition, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service can always be used to mask a user’s IP address.
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