Government investigates spoofing apps over online threat complaints

Clubhouse, a popular audio social media app, is attracting political debate, though the Thai government is threatening prosecutions under the Computer Crime Act. The law prohibits posting against the monarchy or the government, but the app creates an ideal channel for government and politicians to connect directly to targeted social groups.

The appeal of the Clubhouse app lies in its exclusivity, as it is invitation-only, and in bringing a certain humanity to online interactions through the use of voice instead of clicking on a keyboard. Members create private groups where they can schedule speakers in a virtual room to address their group. These events are live and cannot be archived or reopened, thus adding to the immediacy and exclusivity of the activity of the Clubhouse.

In February, a user named Tony Woodsome invited users to a chat room on the Clubhouse app titled “Those born in the era of the Thai Rak Thai Party come join here”. The speech drew 30,000 listeners, who attended the replay of virtual rooms to bypass the Clubhouse’s limit of 5,000 users per room. Tony has lectured on human rights, the protests of young Thai people over the past year, the economic recovery and the lack of government support for start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses.

But Tony was not your average activist. It was revealed to be Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in the 2006 coup in Thailand. The self-exiled leader hadn’t spoken to his supporters for a year before surfacing on the app at that Clubhouse meeting.

Thaksin is one of the many politicians, academics and celebrities who use the Clubhouse app to connect directly with fans and discuss topics that may be taboo elsewhere. The current Minister of Public Health uses the platform, as well as the leader of the Kla party, the founders of the Future Forward Party and the critic of the Thai monarchy Pavin Chachavalpongpun.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has yet to take the plunge and try to communicate with the Thai people through the Clubhouse app like other leaders like the Prime Minister of South Korea. Some see it as an opportunity for Prime Minister Prayut to engage civilly with his opponents, but others fear the connection with these young activists may not be Prayut’s strong suit, and the flubs at the Clubhouse could do more harm. that good potential.

With its confidentiality and lack of recorded evidence, the Clubhouse app has become a free speech outpost and a thorn on the government side, with people often able to speak out against the monarchy. Officials have threatened legal action for violating Thailand’s strict lese majesty laws by denigrating or distorting the monarchy or government. They cite the Computer Crime Law, designed to prosecute bad guys on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and now Clubhouse. So far, many government threats have gone unheeded and have not discouraged users from speaking out.

Clubhouse functioned as a mediator and equalizer, both allowing people of opposing views to have unrestricted dialogue, and allowing average citizens who previously could only listen to lectures to have a two-way conversation with others. powerful and elitist people.

Engaging in anti-government discussions and conversations on their cellphones is much safer than the street protests that have harassed the government for nearly a year and allow activists to connect with the younger generation of Thais through their phones. The Clubhouse app is currently only for iPhones, but an Android app is expected this summer, significantly expanding its reach.

SOURCE: Channel News Asia

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