Webmaster Convicted For Not Being Fast Enough In Deleting Comments That Insulted Thai King
from the but-given-a-suspended-sentence dept
For a few years now we’ve covered how the Thai government’s ridiculous “lese majeste” laws that forbid insulting the monarchy have been used repeatedly to censor open forums and arrest or intimidate critics. In one case, which we wrote about a few years ago, the webmaster for the popular Thai site Prachatai was arrested for failing to delete comments of users on the site (not written or approved by her) that were deemed offensive to the monarchy fast enough. The post and the comments happened in 2008… but the woman, Chiranuch Premchaiporn (and better known as Jiew), wasn’t arrested until 2010, right after she returned from a trip abroad where she was speaking about the importance of internet freedom.
With an awful lot of public attention on the trial — and just as the World Economic Forum was about to meet in Bangkok — the court found her guilty — but also gave her a suspended sentence and a small fine. While that beats the 20 years in prison she could have faced, plenty of people are still pointing to the massive chilling effects such a conviction has on a free and open internet. Certainly, webmasters will have tremendous incentive to limit interaction and comments from the public.
At a time when countries who want to thrive and flourish should be encouraging greater and more widespread use of the internet, convicting a webmaster because the government doesn’t like some comments that others left on a website is exactly the wrong approach. It goes against basic principles of free speech and properly applying liability. Yes, lots of countries (including the US at times) have been chipping away at such basic and fundamental ideas online, but it’s still disappointing to see countries effectively guaranteeing a lack of openness and innovation within their own borders thanks to moves like this one.