You’ve probably heard of the Great Firewall of China, which scrubs the web of any potentially subversive content for half a billion internet users. And you’ve definitely heard about the Egyptian government’s decision to switch off all internet and mobile-phone networks at the height of the uprising in 2011. But there are a host of lesser-known threats to internet freedom, some of which endanger the very nature of the net as we know it.
The decision by Thailand’s Constitutional Court to rule that Article 112 of the Criminal Code - the ‘lese majeste law’ - is a devastating blow to freedom of expression and internet freedom in Thailand and contradicts the constitution’s mandate to protect human rights. The Thai government has used Article 112 of the Criminal Code (Lèse Majesté) – which criminalizes defamation of the royal family – to curtail the space for diverse political opinions and freedom of expression online and offline.
Freedom House condemns the verdict on May 30 sentencing Thai webmaster, Chiranuch (Jiew) Premchaiporn to an eight-month suspended prison sentence and to pay a fine of 20,000 Thai Baht ($630) for comments posted by visitors to her online forum that were deemed “offensive” to the monarchy. She was convicted under the Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), which holds internet service and content providers criminally liable for content they host or transmit. The verdict is yet another chilling indicator of the ever-shrinking space for free expression in Thailand.
Lauren Galacia manages the Asia program. Prior to joining Freedom House, she oversaw the development and implementation of citizen engagement programs throughout Asia and Eurasia, with a focus on Thailand and Burma.