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Facebook is moving aggressively into the sports streaming business as it seeks to grow user engagement with its platform. Source: Shutterstock/sitthiphong

Thailand: Facebook still accessible despite ‘lese majeste’ deadline

THAI users reportedly still enjoyed access to Facebook on Tuesday, despite a previous threat by authorities to block the social media site if it failed to remove content in violation of the country’s strict lese majeste laws.

The threat issued last week said the social media giant would have until 10am on Tuesday to remove 131 Facebook pages, which were among the 309 pages identified by a Thai court as containing posts critical of the monarchy.

Thailand’s strict lese majeste law makes it illegal to insult any member of the royal family. Those convicted face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

After 10am, however, the website was still available. It is not immediately known if Facebook fully complied with the request, but according to local media this morning, while more pages were blocked on Monday, access was still available to fewer than 100 “illicit” pages.

According to reports earlier this month, the uproar started when Facebook was asked to geo-block access to one particularly sensitive video of newly installed Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun strolling through a mall in Germany last June, just months before his father’s passing.

There was nothing particularly offensive about the 44-second clip, except it showed the monarch covered in tattoos and waltzing about in a crop top with a scantily-clad woman said to be one of his mistresses.

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Vice News reported the video was filmed by a Thai citizen who recognised the king in the Munich mall on June 10, 2016, before it was sent to journalist and junta critic Andrew Marshall.

Marshall then posted it to his Facebook page, triggering the firestorm of protests in Thailand.

While this is the first-known video of the king dressed that way, he has in the past been photographed wearing a similar crop top and is known for his jetsetting ways.

But while access to the video was blocked, reports said Facebook later refused to do the same for every page identified by Thai authorities as containing illegal and “illicit” content.

Last week when issuing the Tuesday deadline, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission said Facebook only agreed to restrict access to 178 of the 309 flagged pages.

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Early Tuesday morning, The Bangkok Post quoted Thai Internet Service Provider (Tispa) as saying it was under immense government pressure to shut down all access to Facebook as it still refused to take down every post identified as sensitive.

The report also said Tispa and Internet gateway providers emailed Facebook last Friday, saying: “If the relevant Thai authorities find any illegal content from www.facebook.com in our system – particularly the 131 URLs which have not yet been removed – concerned authorities will request we shut down the CDN of www.facebook.com and other parts of the network to block such illegal content.”

“This action may affect the entire delivery services of www.facebook.com to customers in Thailand.”

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said since the email, Facebook appeared to have taken action to cooperate with Thai authorities.

“However, we have learned some issues have not been solved yet,” he was quoted saying in The Bangkok Post.

*This article originally appeared on Asian Correspondent