Thailand lifts YouTube ban

Website to block clips

Thailand has lifted a five month ban on video website YouTube after the company agreed to block clips offensive to the country’s monarch King Bhumibol.

Information and communications minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said Friday that the company had installed filters that would prevent people in Thailand from accessing anti-royal videos, while leaving users outside the country free to access them.

“Any clip that we think is illegal, we will inform YouTube and YouTube will have a look independently,” he said. “If YouTube agrees that it is illegal in Thailand or against Thai culture, they will block it from viewers in Thailand.”

The Google-owned site was banned from operating in Thailand in April when several clips mocking King Bhumibol were posted and the company refused to delete them. Although the clips were subsequently removed, the ban has remained in place while the company wrestled with technical issues and accusations of censorship.

In recent weeks, authorities have used a new computer crime law to arrest two Thais, now in custody, for offensive comments about the monarchy made in Internet chat rooms.

Google has imposed similar restrictions elsewhere.

In France and Germany, for example, Google has blocked sites that could run foul of local laws on Holocaust denial and hate speech, while in Turkey it filters material that insults the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

In China, Google co-operates with authorities to censor search results.

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