Thailand unveils 'anti-fake news' centre to police the internet

The sign of Anti-Fake News center is pictured in Bangkok, Thailand. (Reuters)
Updated 01 November 2019

Thailand unveils 'anti-fake news' centre to police the internet

  • "The centre is not intended to be a tool to support the government or any individual," Puttipong said
  • It is staffed by around 30 officers at a time, who will review online content - gathered through "social listening" tools

BANGKOK: Thailand unveiled an "anti-fake news" centre on Friday, the Southeast Asian country's latest effort to exert government control over a sweeping range of online content.
The move came as Thailand is counting on the digital economy to drive growth amid domestic political tensions, following a March election that installed its junta leader since 2014 as a civilian prime minister.
Thailand has recently pressed more cybercrime charges for what it says is misinformation affecting national security. Such content is mostly opinion critical of the government, the military or the royal family.
Minister of Digital Economy and Society Puttipong Punnakanta broadly defined "fake news" as any viral online content that misleads people or damages the country's image. He made no distinction between non-malicious false information and deliberate disinformation.
"The centre is not intended to be a tool to support the government or any individual," Puttipong said on Friday before giving reporters a tour.
The centre is set up like a war room, with monitors in the middle of the room showing charts tracking the latest "fake news" and trending Twitter hashtags.
It is staffed by around 30 officers at a time, who will review online content - gathered through "social listening" tools - on a sweeping range of topics from natural disasters, the economy, health products and illicit goods.
The officers will also target news about government policies and content that broadly affects "peace and order, good morals, and national security," according to Puttipong.
If they suspect something is false, they will flag it to relevant authorities to issue corrections through the centre's social media platforms and website and through the press.
Rights groups and media freedom advocates were concerned the government could use the centre as a tool for censorship and propaganda.
"In the Thai context, the term 'fake news' is being weaponized to censor dissidents and restrict our online freedom," said Emilie Pradichit, director of the Thailand-based Manushya Foundation, which advocates for online rights.
Pradichit said the move could be used to codify censorship, adding the centre would allow the government to be the "sole arbiter of truth".
Transparency reports from internet companies such as Facebook and Google show Thai government requests to take down content or turn over information have ramped up since the military seized power in 2014.
A law prohibiting criticism of the monarchy has often been the basis for such requests for Facebook. In Google's cases, government criticism was the main reason cited for removal of content. 


Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf becomes first female editor of Financial Times

Updated 12 November 2019

Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf becomes first female editor of Financial Times

  • Khalaf has served as deputy editor, foreign editor and Middle East editor during her more than two decades at FT
  • Khalaf will join Katharine Viner at the Guardian as one of the few women to edit major newspapers in Britain

LONDON: Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf will become the first woman to edit the Financial Times in its 131-year history after Lionel Barber, Britain’s most senior financial journalist, said he would step down.
Barber said on Tuesday he would leave in January after 14 years as editor and 34 years at the Nikkei-owned newspaper, which had one million paying readers in 2019, with digital subscribers accounting for more than 75% of total circulation.
Khalaf has served as deputy editor, foreign editor and Middle East editor during her more than two decades at the salmon-pink FT and in recent years has sought to increase diversity in the newsroom and attract more female readers, while also becoming the publication’s first Arab editor.
“It’s a great honor to be appointed editor of the FT, the greatest news organization in the world.
“I look forward to building on Lionel Barber’s extraordinary achievements,” said Khalaf, whose earlier writing for Forbes magazine had earned her a small role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Her article described the leading character Jordan Belfort as sounding like a twisted version of Robin Hood who takes from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers.
Khalaf will join Katharine Viner at the Guardian as one of the few women to edit major newspapers in Britain and one of few leading female editors in the world after Jill Abramson left the New York Times.
Before joining the FT in 1995, Khalaf worked at Forbes in New York and earned a master’s at Columbia University and graduated from Syracuse University.
Tsuneo Kita, chairman of Japan’s Nikkei which bought the FT from Pearson in 2015, said in a statement Khalaf was chosen for her sound judgment and integrity.
“We look forward to working closely with her to deepen our global media alliance.”
Nikkei’s Kita described Barber as a strategic thinker and true internationalist, adding he was very sad to see him leave.
“However, both of us agree it is time to open a new chapter,” he said.
During his time as editor, Barber engineered a successful push into online subscription that protected the title as others battled an unprecedented collapse in advertising revenue, as well as managing the move to a new owner.