6 June 2024

Thailand’s Election Commission has set up what it calls an “E-War Room”, to regulate and monitor the use of social media by political parties and election candidates in their campaigning.

According to its Secretary-General Sawaeng Boonmee, as Thailand has entered a pre-election period, the EC anticipates that parties and their candidates will turn to online platforms, such as Facebook, Tweeter, Line, blogs or webpages, in their campaigning and has sought cooperation from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society in regulating and monitoring these activities, to ensure that they are in compliance with the election law.

If any content is deemed to breach the law, he said that the EC will order its removal from the platform and consider legal action against the offenders.

Yingcheep Atchanont, program manager at iLaw, a Thai human rights and legal watchdog, said that the E-War Room may not, however, be necessary, because most candidates will monitor content on social media, looking for attacks by their rivals using fake news or disinformation. They will file complaints with the EC themselves if they find such content to be harmful to their election prospects.

He pointed out that the real problem is that election regulations do not clearly specify what can and cannot be done during campaigning, adding that the line between false information and opinion is blurred.

For instance, is a candidate accusing a rival of not keeping his campaign promises, after they are elected to the parliament, fake information or just an opinion, he asked, adding that deleting such content immediately may not be right.

Yingcheep suggested that the war room should open a channel through which members of the public and candidates can file complaints and that the responsibility of monitoring social media should not be left with the EC alone.

The EC needs to make the rules about what candidates can or cannot do during their campaigning clear, he said.