Facebook has blocked access to an online group that is critical of the Thai monarchy and its king, Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The “Royalist Marketplace” group was created in April by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a self-exiled academic now based in Japan who is a critic of the Thai monarchy.
In Thailand, anyone who defames the king can face up to 15 years in prison.
Following the government’s request, access to the group’s Facebook page will now bring up a message: “Access to this group has been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the ministry of digital economy and society.”
“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” said Facebook.
“Excessive government action like this also undermines our ability to reliably invest in Thailand, including maintaining an office, safeguarding our employees, and directly supporting businesses that rely on Facebook.”
What is happening in Thailand?
Pro-democracy rallies have spread across Thailand in recent weeks, with protesters calling for reform to the monarchy.
There have been almost daily student-led rallies spreading across the country, including a demonstration in Bangkok attended by more than 10,000 people.
The protests have spread rapidly, largely by young people who are challenging traditional hierarchies, some of which relate to the powerful royal family.
They are calling for the prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who came to power during a 2014 coup, to dissolve parliament, for an end to the harassment of activists and for reforms to the constitution, which was written under military rule.
Thailand’s digital minister accused Facebook of not complying with requests to restrict content, including insults to the monarchy. On 10 August he gave Facebook 15 days to comply with court takedown orders or face charges under the Computer Crime Act, which carries a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($6355) plus an additional 5,000 baht per day until each order is observed.
Facebook has been under intense scrutiny lately for its policing of hate speech, misinformation and more – particularly with the US election on the horizon.