Freedom of speech or freedom to insult

With someone has begun to post the video clip that insult His Majesty the King of Siam months ago, Thai authority has requested Youtube to consider removing the offended materials.

Youtube has ignored the request from Thai authority, claiming that removing the material would contradict the principal of freedom of speech.

That has lead to the decision from Thai authority to block access to youtube from Thai net space.

Looking at the background of the issue as I said above, one would need to ask what exactly is Freedom of speech and when it is no longer Freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is based on the democracy system that allows people to express their political belief legally.

The term legally means, we are free to express our opinion as long as we play the game by the rule. And that rule pretty much depends on what country does it refer to. (Some are different from the other, of course).

In Thailand, the rule is that it is illegal to insult the monarchy institution as it is placed beyond the state political issue. The fact that it is illegal means insulting the royal institution is no longer considered Freedom of speech in state of Siam.

However, it is fair to say that Youtube feels it has all the right in the world to ignore Thai laws because its business is operating under USA laws.

And it is also fair to say that , the Thai authority has all the right in the world to impose Thai laws within the state of Thailand, which is to cease Youtube operation in its Kingdom.

By the way, to answer the question asked by Daniel in his previous post (, which is how would one moderate uploads so as to not offend the world?

The answer to that is, you don’t always have to know when do you offend someone, but you should apologise after you were told.

7 Comments so far

  1. 'Pong (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

    I find this is very interesting issue. I have my thought about this here:

  2. Jack (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

    Hi pong,

    went to visit your thought, and wanna add that I dont think Thai people would feel that they lose anything by not able to go to Youtube.

    I think most of them would be happy to boycote Youtube if the Thai media helps keeping the spotlight on this issue and let them know the insult is still there.

    Let face it, the only reason that the heat was taken off the issue ( in Thailand that is)because of the ban, and no Thai media play this story anymore.

    Clearly it means the Thai really dont think it is such a big deal not able to go to Youtube.


  3. Daniel (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

    This is one area that will be part of the news. In effect the web has no borders, so here is the issue;

    – What is deemed offensive in one country isn’t always offensive in others countries.

    Take for example the UK and it’s watershed agreement. The basis of the agreement is that no adult orientated material will be shown before 9pm on UK television, as not to offend those who get easily offended.

    But after 9pm, you will see adult related content and the argument has always been that if you get offended, don’t watch it.

    Whilst i respect Thai’s admiration for His Majesty, they also have that right to not watch the video and ignore it. Another example of this is the recent banning of the book by Paul M Handley “The King Never Smiles”, I have a copy and have read it and fail to see why it was banned to be honest, but understand that someone in government felt it was exposing a little too much truth.

    Thai media isn’t as free as most people think, there is immense pressure on all media in this country to confirm to the government’s needs, Democracy is not in effect in Thailand, no matter what people see on tv.

    I am a strong believer that people have the right to make up their own minds about a subject, by banning a whole site because they are sticking to their principles seems a little harsh, and this coming from a government minister who was recently quoted as saying “he doesn’t use the internet or has no idea what is really for”

    Todays media is under increasing pressure to confirm to the political animal. In the US, new feeds are not allowed to show direct reports stating how many are dying in Iraq or when the latest US serviceman has been killed, they decided that the american public didn’t need to know.

    The moment you ban something, people will want to see why it was banned, therefore you are giving it more publicity than ever before. What happens if that video was posted on every single site, would Thailand disconnect it’s undersea cables?

    Don’t get me wrong, the video deserved to be removed, but it was the method in which it was removed that has struck me as strange.

  4. Jack (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 7:28 pm


    You have made several points I do agree, espeically about your belief that people has the right to make up their own mind about certain subject, so banning the whole site because it believes in different value is a bit too harsh.

    Another point is that the Thai media is under immense pressure to say what government wants to hear and the democray in Thailand is still in its eary days.

    Based on those 2 points, I would like to add my thought that ,

    a) The Thai authority feels that it is harsh to ban the whole site, but also feels there is no other option left , since removing only the bad VDO is neither legally nor technologically possible. The authority feels really sorry that matter has come to this point. By that, I did not include the numbnut who see no use of internet by the way.

    Basically, we have to do what we can, even though we know it is not exactly the best option.

    b) The democracy in Thailand is indeed in its early day, compare to England or USA , or even relatively new country like Australia.

    This is not an excuse for anyone to not accpet the basis of human right and freedom of choice. I can tell you that there are new generation of Thai that strongly believe in democracy and fully understand that freedom of choice comes with responsibilty to the choice you choose as well.

    That generation will grow stronger and slowly embed this believe into the system eventually, may be not tomorrow, but defintely will happen.

  5. 'Pong (unregistered) on April 29th, 2007 @ 5:41 am

    Thank you for reading my thoughts. My view is solely from a Thai ex-pat who is slowly out of touch these years. Part of me says it is relieved that Thais don’t give a big deal about the issue, hopefully, because they understand that vandalism is everywhere and they choose to ignore it. On the other hand, I question if the censorship is so successful that they are immune to the exposure. Not being able to go to YouTube also means they lose the chance to express their opinions and counteract offensive messages which is the social media is about. Blocking the entire is just too easy way out.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with you about the generation of democracy. I would love to see them getting more furious they are shut down to the site and lose their expressions, getting more assertive on their identity, love and pride. Am I asking too much, too soon?

  6. jeremy (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 1:41 am


    actually it’s easily possible for the thai government to ban the videos in question- the videos are on static urls that can be specifically banned instead of the entire site. the only consideration is the administrative cost involved to keep looking for offensive material.

    i see it as more of a punishment they are passing to youtube for not removing the videos entirely. unfortunately, the way the internet works, is that people will still be able to access the videos and the entire population is denied access to the world’s most popular video site.

    a similar thing happened in china with wikipedia being taken down at almost random intervals because of information posted that is banned in china. it wasn’t the page in question that was blocked but the entire site.

    thank goodness for proxies!

    – jeremy

  7. geomark (unregistered) on May 12th, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

    It’s an interesting problem in an increasingly connected world. I think you cannot have one website that satisfies the entire world. If you leave it wide open you will run afoul of the law in many countries. If you make it safe for all you will have a dull offering.

    The current conflict raises a question for Google: do they really think they can pick and choose which laws they abide by, and still have access to this market? YouTube censors content that isn’t even illegal in the U.S. such as pornography and hate speech. And if there was content posted that is illegal in the U.S. they would remove it and turn over the identity of the poster to the authorities, no doubt about it. But content that is illegal in other countries is something they ignore since it isn’t addressed by their policies. Well, then they lose access to that market.

    But afterall, YouTube itself isn’t really important. I’ve seen some clever uses of it, sure. People have done some clever things to make money with it, too. But it’s predominantly millions of videos of junk. And if you really feel a need for that junk there are plenty of alternatives, including some local homegrown ones in Thailand.

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