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Thailand backs off threat to block Facebook over content insulting monarchy

Thailand has retreated from a threat to block Facebook, instead handing the social media site court orders to remove content the government deems illegal.

Authorities made the threat last week as it wanted Facebook to block more than 130 posts it considered a threat to national security or in violation of the country's lese majeste law, which makes insults against the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Thailand's military government has made prosecuting royal insults a priority since seizing power in a coup three years ago.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of Thailand's broadcast regulator, said Facebook had requested the court orders before it would take action but he expected the social media giant would comply with the demands.

"Facebook have shown good co-operation with us," he told reporters.

The regulator last week demanded that Facebook remove more than 130 posts by Tuesday or face legal action that could shut down the site. In a change of tactic, Mr Takorn said officials had forwarded 34 court orders to Facebook so far.

"The websites that need to be taken down are not only for those that are a threat to stability but they also include other illegal websites such as porn and websites that support human-trafficking which take time to legally determine," he said.

Thai authorities try to take pre-emptive action against material they consider illegal, having local internet service providers block access or reaching agreements with some online services such as YouTube to bar access to certain material.

Much of that is deemed in violation of the country's lese majeste law, the harshest in the world.

The military government has charged more than 100 people with such offences since the coup and handed down record sentences. Many of those cases have been based on internet postings or even private messages exchanged on Facebook.

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

Facebook, which is blocked in a number of authoritarian countries such as North Korea, has said it relies on local governments to notify the site of information they deem illegal.

"If, after careful legal review, we find that the content is illegal under local law we restrict it as appropriate and report the restriction in our Government Request Report," Facebook has said previously.

AP

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