Thai Twitter users could face jail time for tweeting during election

Alec Jacobs Contributor
Font Size:

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won what many believed was a fraudulent election in 2009, protestors took to the social networking platform Twitter to organize demonstrations and communicate with one another. The effectiveness of Twitter in coordinating the movement led to the protests being nicknamed the “Twitter Revolution.”

Now, the Thai government is prohibiting the use of Twitter during its upcoming general election. (Red-shirt protest divides Thai society)

The Next Web reports that Thai citizens could face jail time of up to six months and a hefty $330 fine if they use Twitter or any other online platform to comment on any candidates or political parties. Though polls are open Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the ban starts Saturday evening and lasts until early Monday.

Campaigning via Twitter is also forbidden. Secretary-General of the Thai Election Commission, Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn, said, “Any candidates…will face jail time if they are caught campaigning on social media websites on the evening before the July 3 election.”

The Thai government has enlisted 100 police officers to enforce the ban though, as the Next Web writes, “it will be difficult to see exactly how the law could be effectively enforced in a country with almost 70 million people, almost 20 million of which are online with 8 million using Facebook alone.”

It won’t stop the police from trying. Prawut Thavornsiri, spokesman for the Thai police force, said if the police “can track the origin of (an online message) right away, we will block the site and make an arrest.”

Twitter was so crucial in the Iranian protests because it allowed users to post updates anonymously and in real time, making it a pesky platform for governments in crisis. The Thai government could certainly be described as one in crisis: 2010 saw the largest protests in the history of Thailand, with the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship demanding that the Democrat Party-led government hold elections.