'Liking' political rumours is a crime: Thai police

Police Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, defends his agency against criticism over its threat to take legal action against Facebook users who "like" certain messages of a political nature.

He talks to The Sunday Nation's Pakorn Puengnetr in an exclusive interview.

Q : Are asking if clicking "like" is now against the law.

It will be if you 'like' a message deemed damaging to national security. If you press 'like', it means you are accepting that message, which is tantamount to supporting it. By doing so, you help increase the credibility of the message and hence you should also be held responsible.

Q : Is this rule the same in other countries?

This has nothing to do with foreign countries, because they have different laws. We are taking preventive measures in dealing with this matter. Others may use the principle of law but we use the principle of political science.

Q : Do you think the police have done anything wrong in this?

I don't know. But believe me, I can take legal action against you. The Penal Code and the Computer Crime Act can be applied in this matter.

Q : Which message of the four people summoned by the TCSD was deemed unlawful?

Basically, they talked about the possibility of a coup, which is groundless and is clearly against the Computer Crime Act.

The TCSD action is just meant to have a psychological impact. We don't want these four persons to be jailed. We just questioned them and it's okay for them to say they didn't mean to create panic.

After this action, people are now more careful [about their Facebook messages]. I am mainly aiming at social peace.

So you mean from now on, people can't click 'like'?

I'm not prohibiting from pressing 'like'. But if you 'like' this kind of message, you will be arrested.

Q : What about "sharing" such a message?

There are two kinds of sharing. If you share in a way to support the original message, this is wrong. But if you comment against the message, this is okay.

Q : Will this rule be applied to all cases?

We will just focus on cases of political violence. If you don't prevent it, bad news will be covered by foreign media and confidence [in Thailand] will be affected.

Q : There has been a campaign that "liking is not a crime".

It's okay for people to "like" a Facebook page. But they can't 'like' rumours anymore. I think I have achieved my goal.

Q : Is the TCSD action intended as a threat?

No. We work without any bias about the political colours. Two of those summoned were red shirts, another is a white mask. [The last one is Thai PBS editor Sermsuk Kasiti pradit.]

Q : How did the TCSD go about this case?

I have a team here [at TCSD] and at the Royal Thai Police HQ. Our team searched the keyword "coup" and we found posts by these four persons. It was not difficult. We didn't have a particular watchlist.

Q : Do you think police will be criticised for this action?

It's okay. I just do my work and I have achieved my goal.

What the law says

The Criminal Code and Computer Crime Act can be enforced against people who "like" and "share" Facebook messages deemed unlawful by police, according to the Technology Crime Suppression Division commander.

Section 59 of the Criminal Code, involving Criminal Liability, states that "A person shall be criminally liable only when such person commits an act intentionally. … To commit an act intentionally is to do an act consciously and at the same time the doer desired or could have foreseen the effect of such doing."

Section 83, about Principals and Supporters, states that, "In case of an offence accrued by commission of two persons or more, such accomplices deemed to be principals shall be punished as provided by the law for such offence."

Under Section 14 of the Computer Crime Act, any person involved in dissemination or forwarding of computer data already known to be against this law shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of up to Bt100,000, or both.