Thai authorities say they conduct mass surveillance on popular Line chat app

The Thai authorities revealed that they can access all communications made by 33 million Thai users of the popular chat application, saying it specifically focuses on lèse majesté messages.  

According to Daily News, Pornchai Rujiprapa, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), said at Government House on Monday that the MICT can now monitor seditious messages on ‘Line’, a popular smartphone messenger.

He said that the MICT is especially targeting lèse majesté messages since these messages are threats to national security many of which are currently sent and shared among Line users.  

Line is a smartphone application popular in many Asian countries, which operates like Skype. Users can share pictures, send messages, and make free calls. According to Pornchai, there are approximately 33 million Line users in Thailand and almost 40 million messages are sent each day in the country.

Surveillance by the MICT has been made lawful by the junta since May 29.

Pornchai urged that people who received messages deem defaming the revered Thai monarchy should file complaints with the police and said that the MICT will investigate the cases under the 2007 Computer Crime Act.

He said that lèse majesté suspects arrested for sending and sharing lèse majesté messages who claim that they share the messages because of naivety are guilty as criminal accomplices according to the law and no one should send lèse majesté messages.

The MICT minister further stated that the MICT is also keeping track on lèse majesté websites, 20-30 percent of which are operated as a network. The MICT is also cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to submit complaints to authorities in other countries where the lèse majesté website servers are located to point out how the alleged lèse majesté websites are illegal according to Thai law, added Pornchai.

Many of the recent alleged lèse majesté crimes since the May coup were committed online, especially on Facebook. Apart from charges under Article 112 or the lèse majesté law, most of the suspects were also charged with importing illegal content into a computer system under Article 14 of the Computer Crime Act.

Since September, Prachatai has received reports that the Thai authorities reportedly planned to implement a surveillance device as of 15 September to sniff out Thai internet users, specifically targeting those producing and reading lèse majesté content.

Surveillance by the MICT has been made lawful by the junta since May 29 when the junta issued Order No. 26/2014, entitled “On the control and surveillance of the use of social media”. This states that in order to prevent the dissemination of false information on the internet, the Permanent Secretary (of the MICT) can appoint a working group to:

  • Monitor and access computer traffic, the use of websites, social media, photos, text, video and audio which are deemed to instigate violence and unrest, which are deemed to be unlawful and which violate the NCPO’s Orders.  

  • Have the authority to stop the dissemination of websites, social media, photos, text and audio deemed to be in violation of Paragraph 1

  • Use the authority granted by law to prosecute wrongdoers and work with the NCPO.

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