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Google takes down customised maps targeting anti-monarchy activists

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Custom Google maps pinpointing hundreds of people in Thailand who are accused of opposing the monarchy have been taken down by Google, the company told Reuters reporters. The Google My Maps targeting anti-monarchy activists, listing their names and addresses, were made by a team of 80 royalist volunteers who planned to report the activists for allegedly insulting the monarchy. Under Section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code, known as the lèse majesté law, those who insult or defame the Thai Monarchy can face an up to 15-year prison sentence.

The personalised digital maps allow Google users to save places to a map, share the map to have others edit, and publish the map on a blog or website. When asked by Reuters reporters about the map of anti-monarchy activists, a spokesperson from Google’s parent company Alphabet said that “the issue is now fixed,” adding that the company will remove maps that violate the policies but did not go into detail.

“We have clear policies about what’s acceptable for user-generated My Maps content. We remove user-generated maps that violate our policies.”

Reuters says one of the maps seen by reporters before it was taken down yesterday pinpointed 500 people and listed their names, addresses and even included photos. Many were university and high school students dressed in their uniforms. Their faces were covered by a black square graphic with the number 112, symbolising the lèse majesté law.

Royalist activist Songklod “Capt Poo Kem” Chuenchoopol, a 54 year old retired army officer, told Reuters that every time a volunteer saw a post on social media that was offensive to the Thai Monarchy, they adding that person to the map. He called it a “psychological” warfare operation.

Over the past year, a number of pro-democracy activists, including university students, have faced charges over the draconian lèse majesté law following protests and calls for monarchy and government reform, subjects considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society.

 

SOURCE: Reuters

 

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Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

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