Thai cybercrime act passes unanimously
Thu 22 Dec 2016
The controversial Thai Computer Crimes Act amendment passed unanimously, and will be entered into law within 80 days.
The amended Act has been criticized by digital rights activists as curtailing internet freedoms for Thai citizens even more severely than the original Act, in place since 2007.
The TCCA seeks to criminalize the distribution of information online that is disruptive to ‘public safety’ and ‘economic stability.’ People can be prosecuted for posting information that is deemed even partially false or distorted by the military government of Thailand.
The Computer Crimes Act has been used since 2007 to silence dissidents and curtail freedom of speech in Thailand, and the amended Act gives even greater leeway to the government.
The law will also allow the government to intercept private communications and censor websites without a court order,
An online petition protesting the Amended Act garnered over 360,000 signatures. The petition demanded that the government reject the proposed amendments and instead, rewrite the Act to provide additional clarity and privacy protections.
The Act that as amended has been criticized for increasing the ambiguity in defining violations, causing dangerous uncertainty over what constitutes a violation under the new law. Thai communications companies also openly criticized the amended Act for a new clause that would hold ISPs responsible for content that violates the Act.
Brad Adams, Asia Director for the Human Rights Watch, said, “The adoption of the Computer-Related Crime Act drastically tightens the chokehold on online expression in Thailand.”
“Hundreds of activists have been prosecuted since the May 2014 coup for exercising their freedom of expression online, and these latest amendments will make it even easier for the junta to punish its critics.”
Hacktivists have reportedly targeted Thai government websites in protest against the amended Act. In one attack, a Facebook group, Citizens Against a Single Gateway, called for users to continually reload specific Thai government websites. This created a simple Denied Distribution of Service (DDoS) attack, which took the Defense Ministry website down temporarily.
Other targets named by the group included Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Office of the National Security Council.
A Twitter post was made by a user identifying himself as a member of hacktivist group Anonymous containing screenshots of documents that were said to have been taken from the government to protest the Act.
The news of the Thai Computer Crimes Act comes at a critical juncture in legalized surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Act, just passed in the UK, legalizes police surveillance throughout the UK while at the same time discouraging whistleblowing by removing protections for journalists’ sources. The UK Act, much like the Thai Computer Crimes Act, has been criticized by digital rights groups for granting sweeping surveillance powers to law enforcement while removing privacy protections from citizens.