Thailand's military-appointed Assembly unanimously passes an internet law combining the world's worst laws

On Dec 15, an amendment to Thailand's 2007 Computer Crime Act passed its National Legislative Assembly -- a body appointed by the country's military after the 2014 coup -- unanimously, and in 180 days, the country will have a new internet law that represents a grab bag of the worst provisions of the worst internet laws in the world, bits of the UK's Snooper's Charter, America's Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the dregs of many other failed laws.

Under the new law, sending "false computer data" is a criminal offense, as is transmitting material affecting "the maintenance of national security, public security, national economic security or public infrastructure serving public interest or cause panic in the public" -- and ISPs are co-liable with their users if they fail to pre-emptively censor this broadly defined material.

The statue mandates vaguely defined cryptographic back doors, and bans possession of "information that the court has ordered to be destroyed" -- while also appointing a committee to order the removal of "dangerous content."

Post-coup Thailand is not a hospitable place for dissent or protest, nevertheless, the law has prompted significant protest from industry, scholars, civil society, and other quarters.

Even though the law is not yet in effect, authorities are already aggressively blocking ‘harmful’ Internet content, especially those deemed to be disrespectful to the monarchy. Thailand implements a strict lese majeste (anti-royal insult) law which some activists believe is being abused by the junta to harass and detain its critics. According to the government, it shut down 1,370 websites in October for violating the lese majeste law. This is massive compared to the 1,237 websites shut down by the government in the past five years.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha defended the law by insisting that it will not violate civil liberties. Some businesses also welcomed the passage of the law which they believe will protect intellectual property rights and spur the development of the digital economy.

Thailand’s New Computer Crimes Law Threatens Free Speech and Encryption [Mong Palatino/Global Voices]

(Thumbnail: @stephffart)

Notable Replies

  1. guess we'll see how the Net routes around this damage. I'm sure the Drumpf team is already taking notes on the law.

  2. I suspect that the major trouble won't be for the internet; but for the hapless people trying to use it in Thailand.

    Even when true, the whole "The internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it" line kind of involves 'routing around' the area with the censorship. Unless Thailand has an atypically strong grip on the world fiber network and a desire to piss off major backbone operators; I'm sure those of us outside the country will be able to carry on without incident.

    Inside, not so much.

    (edit: the one area where internal censorship policies do tend to spread dangerously, even if architecturally they should be route-around-able, is if the country doing the censoring is seen as a particularly attractive market. Lookin' at you, China; and the various pusillanimous western tech companies who have lined up eagerly to play ball in the hopes of getting a slice of that sweet, sweet, customer base. With countries of limited economic interest, just letting them rot in their isolated dystopia may be a moral issue; but technologically the rest of the internet can just shrug and carry on with its day. When access to a given market is valuable enough that companies can be...induced to exchange for continued access; you have a much larger problem.)

  3. I anticipate the new economy will ultimately shake out into countries that encourage innovation, and those that discourage it. Looks like the US and most of the EU will be in the second-class seating this time, and it's not the first time. Who's ahead right now? Finland?

  4. That's the point of laws like this. It's Authoritarianism 101. You pass very broad laws that carry harsh penalties, then you enforce them selectively. This keeps the rabble guessing your intentions, and afraid to stick out their noses.

  5. Just an exercise to show their sister city in North Carolina how to do legal reform and shorten legislation cycle times!
    Just lese'in.

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