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Thai Website Blacklist Leaked

Wikileaks managed to find the official list of blacklisted sites from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) in Thailand. Thailand has aggressively, if often ineffectually, attempted to control the internet, especially supposed infractions of its severe lese majeste law (see my piece earlier this year, as well as this article for more background on Thai censorship).

The list demonstrates exactly what is to be expected. Many sites were over-blocked and nixed for political reasons, even by the standards of lese majeste, itself a politically motivated statute, intended to “protect” the King. I trust Thai bureaucrats much less than Google, about whose policy of evaluating flagged YouTube clips I feel some unease. More abstractly, this story brings an Orwellian truth to light, that citizens should always distrust a government’s control over their information world.

What is fascinating to me though is how clearly the Thai government’s attempt to tame a medium as porous and expansive as the internet is failing. In the good old days, you forced the newspapers and TV stations either to license or self-censor under the threat of fines and jail. You might arrest a few prominent journalists as an example and call it a day. Although today many bloggers are being jailed (now, according to Bruce Etling here at Berkman, more frequently than traditional journalists) the mechanisms of state censorship are no longer as shrouded in mystery or difficult to assess.

The internet, by publishing leaks which none but the most underground of traditional newspapers might dare to print, naturally resists the yoke of the censorship regime. The harder a country tries to censor the internet (and China and Thailand are trying pretty hard), the more its stream of information slips like sand through their fingers.

1,203 is a paltry sum of websites, and yet probably represents a significant exertion of man hours on the part of government employees, bewildered that they must patrol a world wide series of interconnected networks, mirrors and proxy servers of free information. The censorship regime, as I see it, even the fancy Chinese firewall, is doomed to crumble under the weight of this exponentially expanding infrastructure of ideas. That includes all the taboo, dissident and revolutionary ones, too.

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2 Responses to “Thai Website Blacklist Leaked”

  1. Bryan Says:

    Thai censorship is a very interesting topic. I just got back from a few weeks in the country; during my stay I witnessed several peaceful protests (one in front of a large commercial center in Bangkok, and one in front of a government building). Police were there to make sure the protest didn’t get out of hand, but so were reporter’s cameras to ensure the public knew about the protests. Local people were well aware of the recent protests at the airport, and the newspapers carry daily reports of government failings. I met an American ex-pat working for the Royal Thai Tourist Police who admonished “insult and argue about politicians as much as you want, just don’t insult the king. There will be a Thai person listening, he will get offended, and he will call the police.”

    What I am getting to is that this is a country with little to no political censorship. You have made the mistake of conflating political censorship with the lese majeste laws. In most ways the King is an apolitical institution. He is a symbol for the Thai people. In Thailand the Lese Majeste laws are more akin to flag-burning statutes than to political censorship. I am in no way condoning censorship (political or otherwise), but to claim that the lese majeste laws–laws tantamount to strong libel laws–destroy political discourse and transparency is an exaggeration.

  2. thai bar Says:

    I really liked your blog! Im heading to phuket and pattaya this summer to all the information i can get on thailand events are useful. I Will subscribe to your feed.