Thailand’s National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) has almost unanimously (144 to 1) approved a report on recommendations to control social media that comes right out of an Orwellian dystopia and makes the most oppressive regimes look like amateurs.
The most extreme measures include zoning of phones and SIM cards so that anyone straying from conflict areas will have their devices deactivated, and state-sponsored doxxing of social media users in the event of a dispute. Meanwhile, all overseas media companies will have to register themselves and pay taxes.
The NRSA, formerly the National Reform Council, is a body that was demanded by the (pseudo)Democrat party mob that ousted Yingluck Shinawatra’s government in 2014, which led to the current military junta taking control. Its recommendations do not automatically become law, but will be taken up by the National Legislative Assembly, the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Council for Peace and Order (as the junta likes to call itself).
Key recommendations of the so-called “Plan to Control Online Media to Reduce Social Conflict” report and context are as follows:
- Biometrics will be required for SIM cards. Fingerprint data, facial data and ID card data will have to be gathered before a SIM card is issued. Such a measure will make people think twice doing something online. The current NBTC biometric registration in the south will be expanded nationwide.
- Zoning will be incorporated in conflict areas such as the deep south. SIM cards, IMEIs and MSISDNs will all have to be registered. Any device straying from its designated area will trigger off an alert, and the device/SIM will be deactivated until the user reports to authorities. The report says this will help public safety.
- A central government database of all phone users and a register of all IMEI numbers will be set up, as opposed to the current system in which the data lies with the operators. The task of running this database will be given to the NBTC. The NRSA paper says that the central database will be used to solve crimes, and will be available instantly to officers empowered under the Computer Crime Act.
- The number of SIM cards that an individual can register will be restricted to a reasonable amount.
- All SIM cards will have to be registered under the new rules in an appropriate timescale.
- Names and phone numbers will be made available to the public under certain rules. If people cannot hide behind an anonymous number, the report says, they will be less likely to commit a crime online. Personal information of all social media users may also be made public for the same reasons. The NBTC will also run this database. Anyone can get the name and telephone number(s) of a person by writing to the NBTC with proof that abuse has happened.
- The report recommends that the Thai government set up its own social media network. Registration will require biometric ID cards. This will cut down on crime and help keep money within the country. The current inability to tax Facebook and YouTube was given as a key reason why a domestic social network is needed. It also ensures that Thailand has a social media network that complies with all laws.
- All foreign news organizations, as well as CDN and caching servers, will have to register themselves with the NBTC. Foreign news organizations operating in Thailand will be taxed. Logs will be kept for law enforcement purposes. The NBTC and Digital Economy Ministry will be in charge of getting overseas operators to register.
- The report calls for a social media monitoring center to be set up. Facial recognition, web crawlers and data analytics will be combined into one system to sift information from Facebook and CCTV feeds so that anonymous people in social media can be identified. The monitoring center will be overseen by the commander of the Police Technology Crime Suppression Division.
- The Ministry of Culture will train Buddhist, Islamic and other religious clerics the do’s and don’ts of good online behavior, and have them train users on how to behave online.
The full report (in Thai) can be downloaded from the parliament website here.