Thailand is giving Facebook until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, local time, to purge content that is allegedly critical of the monarchy — or be forced to defend itself in court.
According to the country’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the social media giant failed to obliterate 131 of 309 web addresses on its platform that threatened national security or violated lese majeste laws, which make the defaming, insulting or threatening of Thai monarchy a criminal offense.
Officials reportedly wrote to Mark Zuckerberg last week. Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the commission, told reporters on Thursday (via The Guardian):
“If even a single illicit page remains, we will immediately discuss what legal steps to take against Facebook Thailand. Every person must comply with Thai laws, and strictly follow rulings by local courts.”
The “illicit” pages are part of about 6,900 web addresses Thailand has ordered to be taken down since 2015, CNBC noted.
Since the military government seized power in the country in 2014, a focused crackdown on criticism of the monarchy has been in effect.
If Facebook Thailand fails to comply with the latest request, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) will file charges under the Computer Crime Act and commerce regulations, Tantasith said. He added that it is possible to obtain a search warrant for the social network.
As per BBC, Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code says anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” will be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Dhiraphol Suwanprateep, partner for IT and communications at multinational law firm Baker & McKenzie, echoed that censorship is a global problem, the Bangkok Post wrote. Blocking illegal content would warrant the shutdown of Facebook as in China, but Suwanprateep questions what the alternative would be for Thai social media users.
There are approximately 41 million Facebook users in Thailand as of June 30, 2016.