#Thailand – Big Brother-like control on social media users

THE NATIONAL Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has accepted a proposal that would require social media users to identify themselves and for the establishment of a “watch centre” to monitor netizens 24 hours a day.

The junta-appointed assembly yesterday voted 144-1 to pass the proposal.

The suggestions are described as “quick win” measures to be implemented by 2019. Other long-term social media measures will be part of the junta initiative’s 20-year national strategy, including the establishment of a Big Brother-like “central social media watch centre”.

The NRSA’s media reform committee, which was responsible for the controversial media regulation bill, proposed the social media reform report yesterday.

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In proposing controls on social media, the committee cited growing problems such as a lack of media literacy, abuse and the “irresponsible exercise” of rights and freedom, which had had social, political and economic impacts as well as affected the nation’s “main institution”, the committee said, although it did not specify what that institution was. 

For the two-year “urgent” period, the committee proposed controls for online access involving the registration of cell phone numbers, especially pre-paid phones.  

Registration could include not only the 13-digit citizen identification number but also fingerprints and facial recognition.

Most social networking websites already require users to link their accounts to their phone numbers. In registering the numbers, officials would be able identify the person owning an account, the report wrote. This would have a psychological effect on users and could prevent them from exhibiting undesirable behaviours online, according to the report.

After being approved by the NRSA, the report will be submitted to the Cabinet for further review.

The report also proposed the disclosure of a mobile user’s basic information, which would theoretically make users think twice before posting because their anonymity would no longer be guaranteed. In addition, it proposed that the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) work with social networking websites, notably Facebook, in identifying users.

 Facebook already had a goal to promote the use of real names in its virtual community, according to the report. If the DE ministry became an official coordinator working with Facebook, Thailand could propose that the tech giant also use the 13-digit ID numbers to verify accounts and exchange information with Thai authorities, the report said.

The proposal also included establishment of a central social media watch centre, citing “inappropriate” use of social media. A Cyber Security Coordination Centre has already been set up, but the report noted that its more than 300 officers had not been able to work effectively because they lacked the proper technology.

The report proposed the adoption of advanced technology that could trace and examine photographs, video, audio and text on YouTube and Facebook, allowing the identification of users posting the content.

Source – TheNation

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