Gov’t Committee Weighs Asking Facebook to Link Thai IDs

Conference workers speak in front of a demo booth on April 18 at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, California. Photo: Noah Berger / Associated Press

BANGKOK — Members of the junta-appointed reform committee said Tuesday that social media users need stricter identity verification methods to deter them from using it inappropriately.

Aimed at tightening the regulation of online platforms, the proposal approved by the National Reform Steering Committee on Monday upset internet users, after it suggested relevant agencies would ask Facebook to consider requiring ID Nos. to operate accounts.

“It is based on the assumption that people use social media in a damaging way because they can never be identified and tracked,” said Pisit Pao-in, the vice president of the media reform committee who wrote the proposal, on Tuesday.

Pisit, a former commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, said the idea was along similar lines to those of the social media company – which is also trying to verify user identification.

Read: Controversial Coverage of ‘Murder Babes’ Raises Press Freedom Stakes

The idea faced strong criticism from the online community, who deemed it unnecessarily invades users’ privacy.

“Silly, when we buy a SIM card, we already have to go through registration. When we set up internet [connections], we already need to show our ID card,” wrote Facebook user Tritus Soitongieum Tuesday. “You guys already have the IP address, why repeat the work.”

Pisit said the idea was a suggestion his committee floated hoping the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society would adopt it by coordinating with Facebook.

He insisted the proposal has no legal binding, saying instead that it only works as a suggestion to other relevant government agencies – which the assembly has no control over.

The head of the committee, retired Air Chief Marshal Kanit Suwannet, said Tuesday that the proposal – which sent the online community into a panic – might go nowhere if the interim cabinet drops or freezes it.

“It is not a law yet,” he said by phone. “We, as technicians made a suggestion, they will need to consider the bigger picture and decide whether to adopt it.”

Harsher Online Policing Suggested

Another suggestion that shook the internet yesterday was the idea of forming a central monitoring center for online platforms.

The committee proposed to centralize social media monitoring tasks under the Technology Crime Suppression Division – which Pisit once headed – to improve efficiency.

They will be tasked with monitoring posts under specific keywords, collecting information and taking legal action against those violating the law.

“Our society lacks monitoring organizations so people do whatever they want without considering laws, ethics or righteousness,” said Pisit. “The staff should collect information from the accounts they find have the potential to break the law in the future.”

The proposal doesn’t differentiate online media from social media – which means the measure will also cover traditional media outlets who publish their work online.

Cited as a rationale behind the measure is the recent controversial coverage of a woman who murdered and dismembered another woman. The committee said online media played a significant role in idolizing the suspect, leading them to conclude that they should be regulated.

FIngerprint Requirement for SIM Cards

The committee also suggested the telecommunications regulator should implement fingerprint verification and facial recognition systems for each prepaid SIM card bought nationwide by 2019.

The top executive of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, or NBTC, said Tuesday the committee was perhaps unaware they had already planned to roll-out the system within the coming months after its implementation in the Deep South.

“It will be implemented nationwide in September,” said Takorn Tantasith.

He added his agency is not required to follow the advice written by the reform committee.

The NBTC, who regularly asks Facebook to remove illegal content and is currently calling on Facebook, Youtube and Netflix to enroll to be regulated, will not touch online content without a court order, Takorn said.

“All of those are suggestions. It’s up to us whether we will do it,” he said. “A lot of issues they proposed, if they are against the law, we cannot do them.”

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