The Thai Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, led by Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, has made news for its outspoken opposition to Facebook.
In a first, the Ministry has vowed to take the social media juggernaut to court to prevent it from operating in Thailand. This action comes after accusations that over 200 thousand consumers fell for fake adverts on the network.
“If Facebook continues to enable its Thai users to be duped by falsified pages, we will be petitioning the court to shut it down,” Thanakamanusorn told reporters on Monday.
These advertisements allegedly contain imitation of official bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as fraudulent digital currency transactions. Some even used photographs of celebrities, politicians, and monks to trick users into falling into traps.
Since July, the Ministry has detected over 1,000 fraudulent advertising on Facebook and has filed several requests for their removal. Nonetheless, the problem persists. The Ministry of Justice officials are compiling evidence against Facebook to submit in court.
“If there is a lot of wrongdoing, the court has the authority to close down pages and accounts.” Or the court might shut down the entire platform,” the Ministry’s spokeswoman, Wetang Phuangsup, added.
Thailand has already had run-ins with Facebook, so this development is noteworthy. The Ministry has previously sued the social networking site in civil court for failing to delete information that violated Thailand‘s strong lese majeste statute, which forbids criticism of the monarchy. Thailand’s forceful strategy might be a model for other countries dealing with the same problems.
Will Malaysia do the same?
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has come under fire for the growing incidence of fraud on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Malaysia has not avoided the problem.
Malaysians reportedly lost about RM330 million to frauds on Meta platforms between January and May 2023, a 25% rise over the previous year. Despite this scenario, Meta must demonstrate more dedication to correctly combating fraudulent adverts.
Rather than increasing moderation efforts, Meta has suggested a premium monthly membership service dubbed “Meta Verified,” which promises improved impersonation prevention and speedier customer assistance. On the other hand, addressing fraudulent advertisements should be a primary obligation of every digital platform, not a paid service.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) took legal action against Meta in June for failing to combat Facebook’s fraudulent adverts. However, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil recently told Reuters that he does not believe the MCMC’s legal action is essential. This announcement came after a “positive” meeting with Meta, which has pledged to collaborate with Malaysian authorities.
Thai authorities’ stern criticism of Facebook should be a wake-up call to other social media firms about the need to take steps to stop the fraudulent use of their platforms. Whether or if other countries, like Malaysia, will take a similarly strong position is a concern. While the outcome of Thailand’s legal lawsuit is uncertain, this episode warns that digital businesses must handle and respond to crises with maturity and accountability.