Thai Government Demands Popular Chat App Reveal Any Time Any User Insults The King

from the encrypted-chats-are-important dept

I spent some time in Asia earlier this year, and while people in the US focus on Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Google Hangouts and a variety of other chat apps, the chat app of choice over there was Line. Basically everyone used it. A year ago, Line moved towards true end-to-end encryption. Earlier this year, the company made end-to-end encrypted chats the default, rather than as a user option (Thank you Snowden!).

Good timing. The company has apparently now refused to obey a Thai government demand that it alert the government to anyone insulting the Thai royal family on the messaging app. For years, we've written about Thailand's ridiculous lese majeste laws, which make it a crime to insult the king. As we've noted, the law is used as a way to censor and crack down on political opponents. And, of course, with the death of the Thai king last month, there's been a sudden uptick in Thai officials going after people for supposed lese majeste violations.

But Line is telling the government that it just can't help out here.
"We do not monitor or block user content. User content is also encrypted, and cannot be viewed by LINE," the statement sent to DPA said.
Of course, there's been some controversy in the past over this. Back in 2014, Thailand announced that it was instituting a broad surveillance program to snoop on basically all internet communications for the sake of seeking out and punishing lese majeste violators. A few months later, Thai government officials flat out claimed that this included monitoring Line messages, something that the company flat out denied (though, that may have also inspired the move to encryption). While Thai officials have, at times, even claimed the ability to read encrypted messages, it seemed like that was just idle boasting, rather than a legitimate revelation of surveillance capabilities.

There is one oddity about Line's response to the Thai government, though:
"We ask the authorities seeking to obtain user data to make official requests through diplomatic channels and have so advised the Thai authorities," LINE added.
So, uh, if the messages are all end-to-end encrypted and there's no way for Line to access them to share with any government, why is it asking the Thai government to use diplomatic channels to make an official request?

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  • icon
    zboot (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 4:46pm

    I'm guessing it (request that requests go through an official channel) is a neat way to funnel requests through a single source where sequesters can be told "sorry" by someone with legal authority over them.

    Now, instead of every single police office, government agency, etc all making requests and threats when they don't get fulfilled, just one single agency acts as gatekeeper for requests and threats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 12:01pm

      Re:

      It just means that while LINE can't read the messages, if they follow "diplomatic" channels, then the NSA can read the messages from one of their manned "man in the middle" attack stations at one of the internet hubs and provide the message information.

      Spy harder...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 2 Nov 2016 @ 4:57pm

    Trump's role model

    Looks like we know how Trump will be if he becomes President.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 5:31pm

      Re: Trump's role model

      Well it's been working for OBAMA!!! The whistle blowers being thrown in Jail by Obama has been in record numbers!!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 5:32pm

        Re: Re: Trump's role model

        There you are wanting to vote in a criminal named Hillary!!!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 8:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: Trump's role model

          Even if options are binary motivations arent always the same.

          There IS a difference between wanting to vote in a criminal, and NOT wanting a geopolitical time bomb of self destructive smug arrogance in office.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      CensoredRobot, 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:11pm

      Re: Trump's role model

      You're an idiot...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 5:05pm

    I don't really see why Thailand needs to know if someone insults Elvis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alex Elsayed, 2 Nov 2016 @ 5:18pm

    So, uh, if the messages are all end-to-end encrypted and there's no way for Line to access them to share with any government, why is it asking the Thai government to use diplomatic channels to make an official request?

    Well-aimed spite? Knowing they did all that paperwork when you write out a guaranteed 'no' would be hilarious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Grey (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 5:27pm

    I started using Line while chaperoning teenagers on an exchange trip to Hiroshima.

    I rather like it, outside of the cutesy stuff my younger kids love.

    The file sharing, gif making on PC (just slap a border down and hit record) and getting my messages on PC and phone at the same time make it quite handy, the encryption is a nice touch. Video phone has worked well too.

    Easy enough that my elderly mother even figured it out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PRMan, 3 Nov 2016 @ 11:54am

      Re:

      I also installed it while we had Japanese exchange students here and used it when my daughter was in Japan.

      But I finally removed it because it was the heaviest, most bloated app on my phone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechnoMage (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 5:59pm

    "why is it asking the Thai government to use diplomatic channels to make an official request?"

    Easy. To get help from their home country, and to show that they aren't a Thai company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 6:20pm

    The ultimate irony

    The punchline to the whole joke of course is that the law against 'insulting' the king is more insulting than anything it might stop, as it makes it clear that mere words are enough to grievously insult the loser on the throne(or at this point the corpse of said loser apparently).

    The law itself is a greater insult to the 'dignity' and 'majesty' of the royal family by implying that they're such thin-skinned buffoons that despite being in such powerful positions they are so immature that they just can't handle mean words.

    (Before someone else points it out, yes I'm aware that it's being used to crack down on dissent, that being it's actual function, my comment is based upon the lie of what it's claimed to be for.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 7:35pm

      Re: The ultimate irony

      You should also know that the previous Thai King that recently passed away didn't like the law, but as he's just a figure head, it's basicly a military tribunal in charge, and while he's been king, there's been at least 2 known coup, but due to his popularity, none of the tribunal tried to overthrow him, since it would lead to civil war with the civilian population.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 4:53am

        Re: Re: The ultimate irony

        In which case I'd partially retract my comment, as I still believe it holds in general but it wouldn't seem to apply to that particular individual.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 6:24pm

    Insulting the President

    You think the Thai government is special? HA! If you insult the President of Germany you will end up in prison for no less than 3 months to up to 5 years. The insult must happen publicly, or in an assembly, or through writing.

    So given I am German and that this is writing if I were to say, in theory, and these following words are just an example of what not to say: The President of Germany is a....
    Honestly, I am afraid to say what I think of him because I really don't want to end up in jail because the honored Judge Wilhelm Gerhard recently said,paraphrased, that people are not subject to be protected from harm by the German Gov when in prison and are kind of supposed to be raped.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Nov 2016 @ 6:37pm

      Re: Insulting the President

      No worries, my above comment can be applied to any person in a position of power/authority who makes it illegal to insult them, meaning their own actions are the greatest insult that can be delivered to such 'delicate' children pretending to be adults.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:19am

      Re: Insulting the President

      Does that include drawing a mustache on a picture of the German pres?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2016 @ 8:17pm

    It's a good thing I don't believe in an afterlife, because if there was one King Bhumibol Adulyadej would be snorting coke coated dingleberries out of Satan's throbbing rectum while stroking his tiny tiny weewee.

    Fight me IRL, Thairants.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sciamiko (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 1:54am

    There is one oddity about Line's response to the Thai government, though:

    "We ask the authorities seeking to obtain user data to make official requests through diplomatic channels and have so advised the Thai authorities," LINE added.

    So, uh, if the messages are all end-to-end encrypted and there's no way for Line to access them to share with any government, why is it asking the Thai government to use diplomatic channels to make an official request?

    Perhaps because asking for data about an account (eg. names, telephone numbers, contact lists, etc.) can be answered even though messages cannot be read.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:16am

    Y'know, there's such a thing as going to far when honoring the memory of Elvis...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:20am

    Those with thin skin should seek careers in other areas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:29am

    Royal Family Reunions

    Man... I bet half the royal family is arrested every time there is a family reunion for insulting one of their siblings/parents/relatives...

    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 5:54am

    LINE has a history of making their apps kosher with censorship regimes.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_(application)#Censorship

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 7:59am

    Content cannot be read onLINE or offLINE

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Adam Gn (profile), 3 Nov 2016 @ 8:34am

    Better use Skype instead

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 9:06am

    King of apes is dead. Long live king of apes!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tie Land, 3 Nov 2016 @ 11:58am

    All members of the Thai Royalty are arseholes

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2016 @ 12:47pm

    A great idea -- why didn't *my* nerds think of that?

    -- HRH Hillary Rodham, Regina

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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