🇹🇭 New Report with Freedom House: Internet freedom remained under threat in Thailand!
The sharpest downgrades on the report’s 100-point scale were documented in Russia (−7), Myanmar (−5), Sudan (−4), and Libya (−4). Following the Russian military’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin dramatically intensified its ongoing efforts to suppress domestic dissent and accelerated the closure or exile of the country’s remaining independent media outlets. Myanmar now hosts the second worst environment for human rights online, outperforming only China. Since the February 2021 coup, the country’s military junta has cultivated a domestic intranet to help silence opposition to its takeover and consolidate its power.
Despite an overall global decline, the report documented some significant improvements in internet freedom, made possible by the tireless work of civil society activists, media groups, and human rights defenders. A record 26 countries registered net gains in internet freedom for the year.
KEY GLOBAL FINDINGS
Global internet freedom declined for the 12th consecutive year. The sharpest downgrades on the report’s 100-point scale were documented in Russia (−7), Myanmar (−5), Sudan (−4), and Libya (−4). Following the Russian military’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin dramatically intensified its ongoing efforts to suppress domestic dissent and accelerated the closure or exile of the country’s remaining independent media outlets. In at least 53 countries, users faced legal repercussions for expressing themselves online, often leading to draconian prison terms.
Governments are breaking apart the global internet to create more controllable online spaces. A record number of national governments blocked websites with nonviolent political, social, or religious content, undermining the rights to free expression and access to information. A majority of these blocks targeted information sources that were located outside of the country. New national laws posed an additional threat to the free flow of information by centralizing technical infrastructure and applying flawed regulations to social media platforms and the management of user data.
A record 26 countries experienced internet freedom improvements. Two of the larger improvements occurred in The Gambia (+3) and Zimbabwe (+3). Despite the overall global decline, civil society organizations in many countries have led collaborative efforts to improve legislation, develop media resilience, and ensure accountability among technology companies. Successful collective actions against internet shutdowns offered a model for further progress on other problems like commercial spyware.
Human rights hang in the balance amid a competition to control the web. Authoritarian states are vying to propagate their model of digital control around the world. In response, a coalition of democratic governments has increased the promotion of online human rights at multilateral forums, outlining their vision for a free and open internet. However, their progress remains hampered by problematic internet freedom practices in their own countries.
KEY THAILAND FINDINGS
The merger of mobile service providers TRUE and Total Communication Access (DTAC) was announced in November 2021; the consolidation of the market may present affordability concerns, though the communications regulator indicated it may not have the authority to review the merger.
Authorities sought to restrict access to content relating to criticism of the government, including by blocking a website mobilizing support to repeal the lèse-majesté law in February 2022.
The Constitutional Court held in November 2021 that speech calling for reform of the monarchy constitutes an attempt to overthrow the king, impacting online expression.
Internet users were arrested and charged for speech calling for government reform, with authorities notably sentencing an activist to six years’ imprisonment over Facebook posts during the coverage period. However, no multidecade prison sentences were issued, in contrast to the previous coverage period.
According to a report released in July 2022, the Thai government likely deployed spyware against pro-democracy advocates, researchers, and politicians during the reporting period.
There were no reported cases of direct violence in retaliation for peoples’ online activities, though extralegal intimidation, online harassment, and doxing of pro-democracy activists and critics of the monarchy continued.
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