Online censorship ‘doesn’t work’ in Thailand

I’ve not been blogging as frequently as usual over the past week so did not initially pick this ZDNet post on censorship in Thailand, ‘Our blacklist has failed us: Thai minister’.

From the article…

A senior minister in Thailand’s ICT authority, which oversees internet censorship in the country, said that blacklisting has failed and should be dropped.

Thongchai Sangsiri, director of computer forensics within Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), told the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity cybersecurity forum in NSW today that its blacklists are verbose and have created onerous management problems for internet service providers.

“We would like [to] leave parents and teachers to decide what to filter … because [the current system] is too much to handle,” Sangsiri said.

“The blacklists grow with many, many websites to become a burden on ISPs. Blacklisting doesn’t work.”

In light of the litany of technical problems involved with internet content filtering, such as limitations with content blocking and the technique being vulnerable to circumvention, Sangsiri said that the Labor Government may just be fostering public support with its now stale plans to impose mandatory blacklist filtering.

“The majority of the public will think the government is doing something; for public image it is good,” Sangsiri told ZDNet Australia.

 The Thailand Government uses URL blacklisting and gateway filtering, and has come under fire from activist groups for alleged oppressive use of the technology.

 But Sangsiri maintained that websites listed on the government-run blacklist are only blocked through a court order; however, there are allegations that providers that refuse to comply with non-court-ordered blocking face substantial penalties.

These comments are certainly surprising on one hand but it is important to note that they are not dismissive of censorship itself but instead suggest that the current system/process of censorship in Thailand is inefficient.

Indeed there still remains a culture of wanting to control the internet within the state, although given the vast number of organisations involved in the process there are many questions around exactly who is in control. Particularly given the latest arrest of Prachatai’s Chiranuch Premchaiporn which came despite comments from the Prime Minister suggesting he regretted the initial arrest of Premchaiporn.

It will be interesting to see how the article and any discussion around the comments from Khun Thongchai are received.

Additionally of interest, FACT has a post on its recent internet censorship petition which was delivered to Dr. Pakdee Pothisiri, commissioner of Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on November 10.

Dr. Pakdee stated he was not really a govt representative as the Commission is an organic body under the Constitution. However, Dr. Pakdee promised to deliver this letter by hand to the Justice Minister, Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, who was also in attendance, to present it to the Prime Minister.

Here is the draft in full:

Mr. Prime Minister:

According to your government’s official media releases from April 15 to today, 283,610 websites are blocked by your government.

Our website Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has been blocked since May 9, more than six months. We host no illegal or even uncivil content.

It is ironic that an anti-censorship website should itself be censored by government.

What does a citizen do to get their website unblocked? I have been in contact with your ICT minister, your deputy prime minister will not return my calls and the military authorities at your CRES and CAPO are simply unreachable by the ordinary citizen.

Mr. Prime Minister, what about Chiranuch Premchaiporn, facing 60-years in prison under the Computer Crimes Act for statements she did not herself pose?

We wish to continue discussion of these issues with you and see our website unblocked now.


CJ Hinke


FACT’s website is not blocked for me, though I cannot recall whether the site (which uses a default URL) is a workaround in response to an initial block or not? It can be difficult to keep up when a great many blogs are blocked and forced to relaunch their content through ‘new’ websites and different links.