Blocking social media is never a good idea

The Junta's online content monitoring panel has announced it will seek cooperation from social media companies to block access in Thailand to Facebook pages, Line groups and YouTube videos deemed to have inappropriate content.

Special attention will be given to social media tools that could violate the lese majeste law and endanger national security.

The move is aimed at curbing content that defies the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)'s 12th, 17th, and 18th announcements. These orders stipulated that online operators must remove messages deemed as provocative, an incitement to violence, critical of military leaders, and likely to cause misunderstanding among the public or disturb peace and order. The junta's orders also made it clear that insulting the monarchy on social media was unacceptable.

The fact that the junta is seeking such cooperation, along with the outcry among Thailand's legion of Facebook users when the website briefly became unavailable on Wednesday, once again reflected the massive influence of social media on modern Thai society.

According to the magazine Positioning, 28 million Thais (41.9 per cent of population) use Facebook. Out of that number, 85 per cent are active users.

Popular activities include posting images, checking-in to display location, posting links and making status updates.

The NCPO bans the use of social media to undertake political provocation. It is among the conditions for those summoned and subsequently freed by the NCPO.

After being released on Wednesday, United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) chairman Jatuporn Prompan posted the message that he had reached home safely and thanked his supporters for their moral support.

Aside from a picture of him and other UDD leaders being released he has not posted any more messages on Facebook.

UDD secretary-general Nuttawut Saikuar was not active on Facebook. His page was updated with posts in which others tagged him. However, many supporters sent him moral support via the page.

Likewise, ex-UDD leader Thida Tavonseth's page, which had been updated daily, has remained unaltered since a picture of the released UDD leaders was posted. There have been no posts since then.

Former Pheu Thai MP Woravat Auapinyakul became active for the first time since February 13 yesterday by posting a link to a video titled "A Giant Anaconda Swallows a Small Kid".

Over the weekend, pictures of Chitpas Kridakorn and fellow members of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) reporting to the NCPO were accompanied by a note saying they had been posted by the administrator of her Facebook page. On Monday the posts no longer contained the note.

In the past few days, she has posted messages of support to Pattani residents and group photos of the PDRC leadership wearing soldier-style T-shirts celebrating PDRC leader Nataphol Teepsuwan's birthday together.

PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban's page featured content similar to that of Chitpas, including pictures of him visiting victims of political violence.

The NCPO's Facebook page has not been active since May 22, the day of the coup. It displayed a message that it was not the official page of the NCPO but was set up for people who are interested in the council.

However, on Twitter, @ArmyPR_News has been very active in updating the NCPO's activities. After one week under the military administration, much of the heated debate on social media, especially Facebook, has died down.

Nevertheless, the junta should keep in mind that a total blockage of social media would not be a popular step.