Thailand has taken legal action against social media giants Facebook and Twitter for failing to take down offensive content after multiple requests, the first case of its kind in the country.
Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society revealed it filed legal complaints against Facebook and Twitter with the country’s cybercrime force after both companies missed the deadline on previous court-issued takedown orders.
The takedown orders were for content that includes criticism against the Thai monarchy, which is an offence in Thailand under its Lèse-majesté law. The law forbids any insults and defamation against the monarchy, and statements deemed as such can be prosecuted under Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.
“Unless the companies send their representatives to negotiate, police can bring criminal cases against them. But if they do, and acknowledge the wrongdoing, we can settle on fines,” said Puttipong Punnakata, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society.
Minister Puttipong further revealed that the Ministry will file more requests ordering Facebook and Twitter to take down an additional 3,000 pieces of online content containing insults to the royal family.
Thailand’s Technology Crime Suppression Division of the police held a press conference to clarify that a further look at existing laws on content posted by users based outside of Thailand is needed. This is in order to determine whether they had the jurisdiction to take up such cases.
This is not the first time that mainstream social media platforms have found themselves in legal trouble in Thailand. In 2017, Thailand threatened to ban Facebook over what was considered illegal content that insulted the monarchy. And in August 2020, Facebook said that it planned to sue Thailand for banning a Facebook group, a move that Facebook views as a violation of free speech.