ISP Sued For Revealing Info On US-Based Critic Of Thai Laws

from the shame-on-netfirms dept

We’ve been talking a lot about the importance of anonymity online, and are always sad to hear about companies that simply rollover in identifying anonymous users for no good reason. A newly filed lawsuit reveals a particularly ridiculous situation, summarized nicely by Paul Alan Levy:

Anthony Chai, a naturalized US citizen who emigrated from Thailand, runs a computer store in California.  Using the store’s computers, Chai and his customers posted anonymous comments critical of the king of Thailand on a Thai-language pro-democracy website,  Thailand forbids criticism of the king ? the legal principle of lese majeste ? and when the Canadian Internet hosting firm Netfirms (which is incorporated in Delaware and maintains a US office) received a complaint from the Thai government, it not only shut down the web site but provided Chai?s IP address and two e-mail addresses associated with the posts.  Thailand has long shown its insistence on applying the principle even to criticism voiced in other countries, when the speakers expose themselves to its authority by, for example, visiting the country. 

When Chai was home visiting family in Thailand, he was detained at the airport and subjected to extensive questioning and to threats of violence against his family both in the United States and in Thailand.  He was also repeatedly questioned in the United States, with prosecutors using the threat of prosecution, and dangling and threatened with prosecution.  The prosecutor also demanded expensive gifts.  Chai has been officially charged in the Thai courts with l?se majest?, and consequently he can no longer return to his native land to visit his family.  Ironically, most of Chai’s posts were directed at the injustice of the lese majeste laws, rather than at the Thai king himself.

We’ve pointed out how Thailand has been known to overreact to criticism of its king before, and this is even more crazy, seeing as Chai was mainly criticizing the laws that make criticizing the king illegal. But, the other key issue here is the fact that Netfirms simply handed over Chai’s info, without consideration of whether or not that was appropriate or if it violated Chai’s rights. It also handed over the info without “requesting that the officials obtain the proper court order, supboena, or warrant as required by the Treaty with Thailand on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.” Chai is now suing Netfirms, claiming negligence and violation of California laws, including its constitutional right to privacy. Should be an interesting case to watch.

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Comments on “ISP Sued For Revealing Info On US-Based Critic Of Thai Laws”

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The King and I?

This goofy story conjures up images of Yul Brynner stomping around getting all bent because someones head is higher than his. But don’t ALL countries do this, USA included? There is a well documented incident concerning the late, unlamented J.Edgar Hoover. Supposedly a housewife commented to her friends that she supposed Hoover to be queer “preferred men and was a sissy”, simple grousing about a public figure. Shortly thereafter, FBI agents tracked the unfortunate woman down, confronted her, and basically scared the hell out of her. She was forced to recant and probably never mentioned JEH ever again. And anybody who ever got suspended for unflattering remarks about their high school principal knows that nobody is safe from the fury of pompous asses. The only thing that surprises me is that the Thai government did not persecute the family of the individual in the story before he even visited the country considering that they already knew who he was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The King and I?

“Sure, but the distinction is that in the US it’s legal and in Thailand it’s not. Kind of a big difference, huh?”

Yes its legal here. But if you get punished all the same thats a big difference too. And people do get punished for expressing their opinions in all countries. My point is its human nature to beat up your critics and it crosses international boarders.

Pitabred (profile) says:

Re: The King and I?

The thing is, what Hoover did was illegal. It happens, but that doesn’t make it legal. What the Thai government is doing is perfectly within their laws, and the laws are immoral.

Just because people do shitty things doesn’t make it excusable. What makes this more unconscionable than what Hoover did is that it’s enshrined in law.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Dangling? = Mike's slap-dash, no-edit writing.

“He was also repeatedly questioned in the United States, with prosecutors using the threat of prosecution, and dangling and threatened with prosecution.”

If Mike reviewed his text at all, he might notice flaws of fact and logic that stem from fitting to his bias. That’s why even when he’s got story and position correct, still likely some error to hoot at, as here.

Ben (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dangling? = Mike's slap-dash, no-edit writing.

You do realize that Mike was posting a _direct quote_ from Paul Alan Levy’s article? If you follow the link and search for “dangle” you find:

He was also repeatedly questioned in the United States, with prosecutors using the threat of prosecution, and dangling and threatened with prosecution.

… which means Mike got it right, and that Mr Levy needs to edit his article.

Pitabred (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dangling? = Mike's slap-dash, no-edit writing.

Mike didn’t write that. It’s a direct quote. You can tell because the couple paragraphs there were in italics and indented.

Really… you would think that people would be sure they were literate enough to understand the conventions of the posting before criticizing the writing of others, if for no other reason than to properly direct their snark.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dangling? = Mike's slap-dash, no-edit writing.

Really, OOTB? You seem to have some sort of man crush on Mike. The amount of attention you pay to everything he does is borderline obsessive compulsive. However, if you want to get on him for a typo or odd sentence in his writing, then it might behoove you to proofread your own writing before hitting the [Enter] key. Try reading this out loud, word for word:

“That’s why even when he’s got story and position correct, still likely some error to hoot at, as here.”

Hey kettle, this is the pot, you’re black!

Anonymous Coward says:

I would say that netfirms could easily claim that the California court does not have jurisdiction in the case, and that it should be brought either in Delaware, Canada, or wherever the server was physically located. I don’t think the company actually did business in California, but I might be wrong.

After all, this is the same logic used to shut down the cases against file traders, so why wouldn’t it apply here?

Robert Doyle (profile) says:

Why on earth would anyone even want to open a business anymore? It seems like if someone in another country can access your product, whether or not that is your intent, you are subject to the laws and regulations of all jurisdictions and if you don’t comply, you get to fight the courts, and if you do comply, you get to fight the courts a little bit later.

Death, Taxes and now Lawsuits. It’s a no-win.

josh_m (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not exactly. Things are a bit different when police and the Fourth Amendment are involved. Basically, because you voluntarily gave your info to your ISP, you have no privacy rights as against the government.

?Every federal court to address this issue has held that subscriber information provided to an internet provider is not protected by the Fourth Amendment?s privacy expectation.? United States v. Bynum, 604 F.3d 161, 164 (4th Cir. 2010).

Anonymous Coward says:

“We’ve pointed out how Thailand has been known to overreact to criticism of its king before, and this is even more crazy, seeing as Chai was mainly criticizing the laws that make criticizing the king illegal.”

But! You have no concept of what you are talking about.

Lets see now.

To the east lies Cambodia where there was a few years that very sociable politically correct government ran by the most of likable of governing heads called Brother #1, Pole Pot. If you do not remember the movie called the ‘Killing Fields’ you should definitely view it to understand what a left wing communist government is all about. Two years in power 50% of population killed.

Now to the north is Laos. Lao People’s Democratic Republic exterminated 20% of its population at the same time.

Further North is China. During the 50s and 60s at least 100 million were exterminated in Mow’s reeducation programs.

Then to the west there is that lovely country once called Burma, now Republic of the Union of Myanmar, with whom the Thais have been at war with for 300 years, and who are so accommodating that the Thais move their capital, Bannock, to its present location so that elephants, the tanks of Asian warfare up till the 19th century, could not be used as attack weapons.

Then of course there is Bhutan where the Chinese backed rebels slandered the complete royal government except for one uncle who just happened not to be at the royal palace at the time.

You might say that instead of over reacting that the Thai government is showing a very high degree of restrain in not applying the same methods of control that its neighbors apply to revolutions and hate criminals.

The problem here appears to be that there is a very large contingency of Americans and others that believe that the world is like their left wing illusions of Utopia. A book which most should read as Utopia had a very dark side to perfection.

Pitabred (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just because other countries are worse doesn’t mean that Thailand should get kudos for “not being as bad”. That line of reasoning only leads to destruction, because you only have to be a little better than someone else in some way.

We run into that problem here in the US, too. We say people need freedom of speech, but don’t like it when people say things we don’t like and demand that it be taken down, and justify it by saying “it’s not as bad as X country!”. It’s hypocritical when the US does it and is destructive to free speech as a whole. Don’t fall into the same trap. Moral relativism is bullshit.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

lol… do yourself (and humanity) a favor and jump from the nearest building rooftop.

That said, you are talking about an US citizen that had a few of the amendments brutally violated. So uh, it is a very real US problem.

And I haven’t even started to talk about your notions of bad and utopia. Incidentally, many ppl outside the US would agree with the phrase you quoted. Surprise, surprise! There’s life beyond America!

Dementia (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Then of course there is Bhutan where the Chinese backed rebels slandered the complete royal government except for one uncle who just happened not to be at the royal palace at the time.

Some slandered the entire royal family, thought that was a regular occurence with the press in Great Britain.

Sorry, understood the point of your post, but just couldn’t resist.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the USA can push its laws on other countries, why can’t Thailand?

That’s merely an observational statement, based on the annoyance of the USA pushing its interests on other nations and forcing them to pass laws it wants. I am sympathetic for him, his situation and his family. I’m not heartless; I hope he is successful and that this raises more awareness about how harmful censorship laws have the potential to be if not properly thought out

Someantimalwareguy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually thought has little to do with the law outside of the act of penning the thing in the first place. The problem is with implementation, emotions, and the “needs” of the moment.

The way to correct the abuse is to make the penalties for abuse much greater than the penalties for violating the law. This would have the effect of chilling emotion and forcing a real cost/benefit analysis for potential overreach…

Bergman (profile) says:

“Actually, I must also be criticized. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. But the King can do wrong.”

—King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 2005

From the sound of things, one could argue that charging someone with l?se majest? could be construed as an attack on the King, since it is in direct contradiction to his views and desires.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Err, no. The king of Thailand is no dictator. Thailand is a democracy, the king does not do that much in the way of official governance. The laws around not bagging the royals in Thailand are upheld by democratically elected officials (there is a lot of allegations of election fraud, but that is a different story and not perpetrated by the Royals by any stretch of the imagination. Thaksin is the generally alleged mastermind there.) As someone pointed out in an earlier post, the king has made comments that could be construed as him not sporting these laws.
The attitude towards royalty in Thailand being untouchable is something more akin to religion rather than a rational law. It’s very heavily ingrained in Thai culture that royalty are something almost at the level of gods. To most Thai people, criticizing the king is something like telling a Christan that god was wrong to create man (or something like that.) But there are always those that disagree.
This is a bit of a circular argument, but I don’t think, even if a politician legally could suggest these laws be changed (and they can’t) doing so would probably get themselves annihilated by enough voters completely withdrawing support.

But the question very well may be asked – how much help is due and when to uphold the laws of other countries and how much opposition and hindrance should be afforded in polar opposite views such as this?

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