Think capitalism is such a bastion of free speech? Then check out this headline from Thailand, a longstanding US ally. The information minister of Thailand has publicly warned that anyone found “liking” or “sharing” Facebook pages that are considered to be offensive to the King or the royal family will be criminally charged. That’s right, sharing or even just liking something the King and his family thinks questions their power, will land you fifteen years in prison. He has already suggested that everyone “unlike” all pages and remove all comments that are negative towards the King. This according to the Bangkok Post.
Thailand is renowned for its ruthless laws towards anyone who disagrees or questions the the King or his claim to power. Similar laws have already been use in a few cases. In 2007, a Swiss man was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for spray painting the King’s image. Luckily he was pardoned by the King and was set free. In 2009, an Australian writer got sentenced to three years because he wrote a passage in a book the royal family took offence too. Luckily he too was pardoned.
With rising international tensions over the continued global economic collapse of capitalism, many governments have been turning their attention towards the internet. Already dozens of “Occupy” activists have already been arrested on flimsy to serious charges stemming from messages posted online, particularly social media like Facebook and Twitter. Most notably British participants in this summer’s riots.
The laws governing such activities in Thailand may seem quirky, but what is no laughing matter is that the types of offenses that are now being labelled as illegal online. The once proud medium of free speech is slowly being taken away by governments around the world as their power is challenged.