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Thai Facebook users get censorship scare

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 28, 2014 at 7:13 am •  Published: May 28, 2014
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BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's new military rulers said that a sudden interruption of access to Facebook on Wednesday was not part of a censorship policy, but due instead to a technical hitch.

The afternoon blockage, which did not affect all users, lasted for about two hours and came just a day after the new military government announced an Internet crackdown. The junta has banned dissemination of information that could cause unrest, effectively banning criticism of last week's coup.

A statement from the junta, called the National Council for Peace and Order, declared that "there is no policy to suspend or close down Facebook."

It said an inspection found that there was a "technical error" at the telecommunications gateway that connects Internet service providers to international circuits, and it had ordered the problem fixed.

Deputy army spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree later came on television to offer the same explanation and announce that the problem had been corrected. All television stations must broadcast official announcements from the junta, which seized power May 22 in what it said was a bid to end more than six months of sometimes violent political disorder. Newspapers and TV and radio stations are exercising self-censorship.

On Tuesday, the government's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology told the Thai press that a new national gateway was being planned to filter the Internet more effectively, and that social media was being monitored closely for violations of the new censorship rules.

Thanit Prapatanan, director of the ministry's Office of Technology Communications Crime Prevention and Suppression, said Wednesday that his office has shut down at least 330 websites since the junta's censorship orders came out, but he denied shutting down Facebook in Thailand.

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