How Monitored Is Online Access in ASEAN?

The recent row between Facebook and the Thai government over illegal content escalated early this week with the government threatening the online giant to shut down its access to Thailand. The information was communicated last Friday by the Thai Internet Service Provider Association (Tispa). Facebook has 19.5 million followers in the Kingdom and is one of the most used network service for social media users. It seems that Facebook finally backed down and took away illegal content.

It however opens the question about the degree of freedom that internet users can expect in countries of ASEAN. A benchmark to this freedom of opinion is available through Google transparency report. The report indicates that close to 5,000 requests have been sent to Google worldwide.

Within Asia, the countries with the highest number of items requested to be removed are South Korea, Japan, India and Thailand. During the period of July 1, to December 31, 2015, they were 3,268 requests from South Korea, followed by Japan with 1,612 requests, India with 1,606 requests and Thailand with 1,566 requests. Google recorded from Singapore four requests and from Vietnam a single request (!) but this covers the period for January to June 2015.

By comparison, Malaysia had only 40 resquests, Indonesia 11 and the Philippines five. However, data are based for the year 2015. According to first calculation for 2016, Google saw a sharp increase in removal requests from Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia as internet activity monitoring or religious blasphemy (particularly for Indonesia) increased. ASEAN countries are in general getting tougher on internet as seen in the recent Thailand/Facebook row.

(Source: Google Transparency Report)