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Police seek to check Line posts

Aug 13. 2013
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Japanese operator of chat app asked to help; TCSD awaiting response

Police plan to study the conversations and comments posted on the popular social-media application Line to see if they violate the law or threaten national security.

Pol Maj Ge Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), said the agency had asked Line Corporation in Japan to cooperate, but had failed with other operators of social-media websites as they were mostly in the West and did not allow such investigation.

"We have been talking to them [the operators of social media] a lot, but they do not want to cooperate. When they want anything, they expect to get it, but when we ask them for something, they rarely help us. They have taken a lot from Thailand but refused to cooperate with Thailand. I won’t let them go if they make any mistakes," he warned.

TCSD officials will be sent to Japan to seek information about suspicious Line users in Thai-land. The Nation contacted Na-ver Japan, the developer of Line, yesterday for feedback and was told that the company would respond today. Although Pisit admitted that his agency had the means to keep track of people’s chat records, it had decided to ask Naver Japan to be ready to send a report on chat records when asked. His agency has yet to hear of the company’s decision.

"We are not violating anybody’s rights, as the checking is being done overseas. So you can’t really attack me for this," he said.

Pisit said his agency also had the authority to check people’s social activities on smart phones.

"Nowadays people use smart phones like a mobile computer. They use it to take videos, upload information, transfer money and connect to social networks. Therefore, we have to investigate information being sent via smart phones as well," he said. "If I want, I can investigate all the information on smart phones. We can investigate all the crimes done via computer systems."

Last week, Pisit summoned four suspects for allegedly breaching Article 14 of the National Computer Act and Article 116 of the Criminal Law by posting messages via social media, saying they anticipated a coup and urged people to stock up on food and water. He said such statements could put people in a state of panic, and those who "liked" or "shared" the messages could be considered violators of the law as well.

This action was met by an open letter of opposition from four professional media organisations. Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission also issued a statement warning the police to use their authority carefully and not violate people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

NHRC chairwoman Amara Pongsapich said looking into people’s online chats was a violation of their rights, and clear guidelines that are acceptable globally should be identified first.

"Most conversations are personal and on personal issues. Checking on such conversations is like tapping people’s phone lines. If [the agency] is really going to do this, it needs to set clear guidelines and keep people’s rights and privacy in mind."

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