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Online content faces censor crackdowns

News, 05 February 2016

BANGKOK: Thailand's military junta is allegedly pressing Google, Facebook and chat app LINE for the ability to "scrub" content delivered on its platforms, according to news reports.

Social media is the latest target in a series of content censorship debates raging in South East Asia, where several web-based content platforms are facing pressure from governments to take down or censor content for political reasons.

While Thailand's TV and print channels have been under tight control since a military coup took power in 2014, social media is less controlled. But this is changing. Local prosecutions for lèse majesté, alleged computer crimes and sedition have soared with many arrested for social media posts.

Web firms such as Google must comply with local laws, and routinely block content within a country if presented with a court order. According to leaked documents, reported by Asian Correspondent, the Thai government wants Google to put aside its usual censorship process and remove content flagged as illegal without going through the court order process.

The move marks a worrying escalation in censorship in the last few months across the region, as some governments tighten the screws on online content providers and social media platforms. But there are indications that some platforms are pushing back.

Malaysian authorities recently urged content platform Medium to take down a post alleging the country's scandal-plagued Prime Minister, Najib Razak, was attempting to exit the country as corruption investigations engulf his government. When Medium refused, authorities quickly banned the site in Malaysia, outraging local users.

A statement by Medium on the Malaysian ban read: "We stand by investigative journalists who publish on Medium. Until we receive an order from a court of competent jurisdiction, the post stays up."

Data sourced from Asian Correspondent, Reuters, Fortune; additional content by Warc staff