Google just denounced a Thai court sentence regarding an Internet forum Web master who received a one-year suspended prison sentence this morning for comments posted by users that offended the Thai royal family.
According to The New York Times, Prachatai [translated] is a popular Thailand-based forum about politics and culture, and its Web master, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, was found guilty of lèse-majesté (royal insults) under the country’s Computer Crimes Act. Interestingly, she did not write the libelous comments in question, but only managed the website that hosted them.
“Telephone companies are not penalized for things people say on the phone, and responsible Web site owners should not be punished for comments users post on their sites — but Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act is being used to do just that,” said Google spokesperson Taj Meadows to The New York Times.
Kampol Rungrat ruled that Premchaiporn was liable for at least one defamatory comment that remained visible for 20 days. The judge noted prosecutors could not prove she supported the comment, and it is unreasonable to expect a Web master to remove comments immediately, but it is still a duty under law. The judge found that leaving the contemptous comment live for such an extended period was beyond reasonable.
Meadows further said the verdict is “a serious threat to the future of the Internet in Thailand.”
Today’s verdict is noteworthy not only because Google lambasted the Thai court for its ruling, but also because it deters others from starting an Internet business in Thailand. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is a notorious advocate for open Web, as it spent $5.03 million lobbying in Washington last quarter alone. According to Google’s lobbying report (PDF), the search engine’s efforts largely focus on the regulation of Web privacy, advertising, and competition.
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