Govt intensifies ‘fake news’ crackdown despite outcry from media, netizens


The government on Thursday doubled down in its campaign against so-called “fake news”, shrugging off complaints by Thai media organisations and netizens of an ongoing state crackdown on free expression.

Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn said a meeting of the anti-fake news committee has set up a special working group to combat misinformation on social media via administrative, tax and social measures.

The working group was tasked with the following duties:

– Prepare policy recommendations for relevant government agencies to counter fake news via legal and social measures.

– Combat the spread of false information on social media effectively and quickly.

– Support the work of the Anti-Fake News Centre in rapidly snuffing out misinformation.

– Closely coordinate with the anti-fake news hub of each ministry.

From June to July, courts approved eight charges of computer misuse relating to fake news, suspending a total of 94 URLs.

Another eight petitions covering 145 URLs are pending court proceedings. Meanwhile, the ministry has recently identified 54 URLs/users as purveyors of fake news.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed authorities to rigorously enforce emergency-decree restrictions against media and all webpages disseminating “fake news” which may cause public panic or misunderstanding that could jeopardise national security, public order or good morals.

Authorities have also threatened legal action against social media celebrities who criticise the government “without good cause”.

On Wednesday, media organisations said the emergency-decree restrictions on free expression showed the government was refusing to take responsibility for its own communication failures which were in turn the result of the prime minister’s mismanagement.