Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Controlling the internet - Director Thailand

Here is a short piece I wrote following about the Thai government and the internet for Director Thailand. The magazine's blog is a recommended daily read for anyone working, or interested, in the business world in Thailand.

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Controlling The Internet

Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositakul sparked controversy on Friday when she lamented the difficulties of controlling new media on the internet.

The blogosphere and social networking sites were a hive of activity with discussions revolving around why the government would want to control social media, a domain where people freely express themselves to the world.

The Senator’s comments are hardly surprising when you consider the state’s distrust of the web.

This is a country which banned access to 50,000 websites in February, once banned YouTube and has government offices devoted to locating and blocking ‘unsuitable’ websites.

The government’s failure to understand the internet was further shown when it ordered the closure of 72 websites after the suicide of a 12 year old boy whose father had banned him from computer games.

Blaming the internet, it seems, is the easy answer.

While it is accepted that bad content does exist on the internet, its capacity to do good far outweighs the few rotten apples that have grown.

Just a glance at the West gives the Thai government examples of the benefits.

Last year saw (now) President Obama fight a ground-breaking Presidential campaign using social media to drum up funds, communicate ideology, listen to America and mobilise his voters.

In Britain too, where politics is increasingly seen as out of touch with the public, the main parties use the internet to better listen and communicate with the country.

Given the recent political and social problems in Thailand, the internet could be used to increase communication, educate and promote peace. Yet the government is more concerned with control and a ‘we know best’ attitude.

The next issue of Director Thailand discusses the growing influence and benefits of social media for businesses in Thailand.

One leading figure interviewed suggested that “social media will be embraced by Thailand, even if it is forced upon the market”.

The government appears to be the resistance that the internet and social media is up against; a head on collision seems imminent.


The FrogBlogger said...

These are worrying times for freedom of speech in Thailand. Perhaps this is the calm before the storm, or will the Thai preference for compromise win out again. Either way, the elite - anywhere in the world, East or West - will do all in its power to retain control, and that means regulating the media to the best of its ability to ensure information control. After all an elite only remains an elite so long as it has a sizeable, uneducated, relatively poorly informed, impoverished labour force under its thumb. That's just the way of things...

Jon said...

Hi Pete, agree re media control but my point remains that the elite in Thailand fail to see the benefits which can be had from the internet.

It's no coincidence that Thailand has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in Asia - there is much to do and the attitude must change.