Thailand’s army threatens to block social media in response to criticism of military coup

Thailand’s army threatens to block social media in response to criticism of military coup

Thailand’s army has warned users of social media in the country that it will shut down websites and services if they are used to excessively criticize the military coup that it staged on Thursday.

The army took 14 national TV stations and as many as 3,000 radio stations off-air this week as it implemented martial law before seizing power from the elected government. While it forced one national TV station to suspend a YouTube feed that was maintained after terrestrial broadcasting was suspended, the Thai army has left the Internet largely untouched. However, it has summoned the country’s ISPs to a meeting today.

Thailand has not been afraid to censor social media in the past. The then-government blocked YouTube in 2006, due to the presence of videos violating its lèse-majesté laws that prevent criticism of the country’s king and royal family; it previously tried to remove more than 10,000 Facebook pages that violated the same law.

Thailand was the first country to publicly back the censorship feature that Twitter introduced two years ago, but it remains to be seen if the coup-makers will act on the social media threat that was made during a public broadcast in the early hours of Friday morning.

There are over 25 million registered Facebook users in Thailand, and messaging app Line boasts more than 20 million downloads in the country. The number of Twitter users is unknown, but Thai is estimated to be the twelfth most-used language on the service.

Image via Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images

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