Thailand threatens lawsuit to shut down Facebook over scam exploitation

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society’s impending lawsuit has triggered worries about a possible nationwide shutdown.

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Thailand is on the brink of pursuing legal action against Facebook amidst allegations of scammers exploiting the platform to defraud local users of millions of dollars annually.

The scams primarily involve paid advertisements encouraging people to invest in fake companies, often using logos from Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission or fake endorsements from local celebrities. Last year, around 70-80% of Thailand’s approximately 16,000 online scam complaints were related to Facebook, costing users over $100 million.

The country’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society has announced plans for a lawsuit. The ministry argues that Facebook should take more responsibility for screening ads, given its role in promoting such scams. While Facebook’s parent company, Meta, remains silent, the impending legal move raises concerns about the potential nationwide shutdown of the social media giant. Despite concerns about collateral damage, the Thai government feels compelled to take action due to clear evidence of the ongoing crime.

Why does it matter?

This has sparked debate about Facebook’s responsibility and the broader implications of a shutdown on online freedom, business, and communication within the country. The Asia Internet Coalition warns of rising legal penalties for tech companies in the region, calling for self-regulation and ‘safe harbor’ rules protecting them from liability for user content. Some suggest bolstering cybercrime and security laws instead of shutting down the platform.