Web master tells court of measures taken against unlawful content

Thai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn, facing criminal charges as an intermediary under the Computer Crime Act (CCA), on Wednesday told a court that she had implemented various precautionary measures in trying to prevent unlawful content on her Prachatai web boards.

Chiranuch, director of Prachatai alternative news website, testified that she gradually toughened her screenings after her web boards became overwhelmed with political postings after the military coup in September 2006.

She said between 2007 and 2008, Prachatai web boards had 20,000 – 30,000 visitors and about 300 new topics were posted every day, with about 2,800 – 2,900 responses to those topics.

She said she was then forced to require visitors to register prior to making postings, and later allowed registered members to delete inappropriate postings themselves – first starting with three votes to have a posting deleted and later with only one vote.

All the while, web board members could notify her of any inappropriate content and she could delete any posting herself.

Testifying at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road in Bangkok, Chiranuch, however, said some of the inappropriate postings could have slipped her own monitoring and that of the members.

She was charged with 10 counts for 10 different postings, all allegedly to be defaming the monarchy, at different periods of time between April and November 2008 on the web boards. There were, however, only two postings that appeared on the web boards longer than a few days – one for 11 days and the other 20 days, according to the prosecutor.

Of the postings central to the trial, the police only identified and arrested one poster, known as Noppawan Tangudomsuk, whose case has been dismissed by a separate court.

On the posting by Noppawan, Chiranuch said she was not notified by any authority in seeking the deletion.

She said there were only three responses to Noppawan’s posting within a period of about one hour, and after that the topic became dormant – no further response was allowed but visitors could still read it.

She also told the court that she removed more inappropriate postings at her own initiative, compared to numbers deleted due to notification from the authorities.

Chiranuch, who was arrested by police on March 2, 2009 and charged by prosecutors a year later, said Prachatai web boards were shut down by the end of July 2010 as she had to pay attention to her court case and could not cope with the workload as the web master.

After her testimony on Wednesday, hearing of defendant’s witnesses will resume on October 11. The prosecutor’s witnesses took the stand in February and earlier this month.

If found guilty, Chiranuch faces a maximum jail sentence of 20 years.

[For a report on the February hearing, read SEAPA’s summary here.]

By Sinfah Tunsarawuth
Media Defense – Southeast Asia (a partner of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance)