Computer Crime Act Has Issues, Google Tells Censorship Committee

Photo : Robert Scoble / Flickr

BANGKOK — Internet search giant Google reportedly expressed concern that Thailand’s Computer Crime Act could interfere with its ability to operate in the kingdom.

Following a Friday meeting said to have been attended by representatives from Google Asia Pacific, committee spokesman Apichart Jongsakul said the company will send a letter outlining concerns about the vague use of the Computer Crime Act to the Media Reform Committee, which is tasked with gaining cooperation from companies such as Google to further internet censorship.

Despite expressing anxiety about the law’s ambiguity, the search engine company indicated it was willing to cooperate with Thai authorities and take down websites deemed illegal once a court order was issued, Apichart said.

Apichart said the Google reps, regional government affairs head Ann Lavin and lawyer Vivian Tan, said they’ve always responded to the requests from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the Royal Thai Police.

The government committee said late last month that its Jan. 14 and Jan. 21 meetings with Google would be followed by ones with Facebook and messaging app Line at unspecified dates.

Soon after seizing power in the May 2014 coup, the junta dispatched officials including Maj. Gen. Pisit Pao-in, a former commander of the Technology Crimes Suppression Division, to Singapore and Japan in a failed bid to win the cooperation of all three companies in censoring and gaining access to users’ social media accounts.

The companies reportedly rejected their overtures, around the time the junta announced it would fence off Thailand’s internet by building its own “national gateway” through which it would route all traffic.

Pisit is now overseeing the committee’s renewed bid at winning cooperation from the internet multinationals. On Dec. 24, he said his committee would seek junta approval to use the absolute power it granted to itself under Article 44 to crack down on online media, especially that considered to affect national security and defame the monarchy.

In a number of cases, netizens and activists have been charged with sedition for criticizing the military government.