16:55 GMT +308 December 2019
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    Thailand Pulls Back Threat to Block Facebook Over 'Illegal' Content

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    Thailand has backed off a threat to block Facebook, instead handing the social media platform court orders to remove content the government considers illegal.

    Last week, Thailand's broadcast regulator said it would ban Facebook starting Tuesday if the company fails to restrict 131 offending posts from being seen within the country. Among those pages, it said, were those threatening the country's national security or violating its lese majeste law, said to be the strictest in the world.

    The law makes remarks against the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Since Thailand's military government seized power in a coup three years ago, more than 100 people have been charged with such offenses and given record sentences. Many of the cases involved Facebook, in one way or another.

    Despite the threat, the site remained up and running after the Tuesday morning deadline had passed, as Thai authorities didn't deliver necessary court orders in time.

    Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the country's broadcast regulator, told reporters that Facebook had requested court orders before any action is taken. So far, Thailand had forwarded 34 court orders to the company. Ninety-seven more are still to be issued.

    "Facebook has already responded that it will comply when we have court orders," Takorn said.

    He added that online censorship regulations require the removal of not only websites that are a threat to stability but also those promoting other illegal content such as pornography and gambling.

    Thai authorities seem determined to make sure all material they consider illegal is not available for Thai citizens. If they fail to reach agreements with online services such as YouTube and Twitter, a threat to block the site completely typically follows.

    In April, Thailand declared it illegal to exchange information on the internet with three prominent government critics who often write about the country's monarchy.

    Facebook has been cooperating with the Thai government and already blocked hundreds of posts considered offensive to the royal family. Thousands of other websites have also been blocked.    


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