While Internet governance has global reach, it is also greatly influenced by local and regional issues. With this in mind, Cyber Stewards Network partner Professor Pirongrong Ramasoota of Chulalongkorn University, together with the Secretariat of the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF), organized the recent Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum. Professor Ramasoota also serves as Vice President for Social Outreach and Global Engagement for Chulalongkorn University.
The APrIGF brought together over 500 participants to directly address the unique issues facing the Asia Pacific region.
The event is “…a multi-stakeholder platform for public policy on Internet and its impact on society. For almost a decade, the forum draws in discussions and incubates collaborations for the developments of universally affordable, accessible, non-discriminated, secure and sustainable internet across the region.”
Citizen Lab Senior Researcher Irene Poetranto attended the forum and participated in a number of events. “The forum directly tackled many pressing issues in Internet governance today, including online harassment, LGBTQ2+ expression and censorship, cybersecurity training, and youth-driven Internet governance initiatives,” she said.
Citizen Lab’s Cyber Stewards Network Partner Pirongrong Ramasoota was featured in a Bangkok Post article titled “Through a screen darkly,” exploring the role of the government’s censorship measures and their impact on hate speech online. Researchers have suggested that the junta’s suppression of free speech have led to a growth of hate speech online, particularly on social media, as individuals seek an outlet to express their views. About 56% of the Thai population uses the Internet, spending an average of 6.4 hours per day.
Pirongrong Ramasoota told the Bangkok Post that Facebook in particular has became an outlet for hate speech toward rival political groups. Content such as rape threats, witch-hunts, and threats of deportation have been common on the platform. The level of hatred [in a society] depends on experience and history, such as the 9/11 attacks that created a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in the US and globally,” said Pirongrong. The sheer number of individuals that are reached by social media information makes the number of incidents that could spark hatred similarly higher.
Pirongrong attributes the rise in social media hate speech to the prior restrictions on the media and other forms of expression. She said: “When people’s opinions are shut down, they’ll seek safer spaces to release their opinions. They may feel like they are treated unfairly because one group can speak out while the others are prohibited.” Another concern is that the lack of diverse opinions online leads individuals to become more convinced that their own opinions are righteous, and thus refuse to evaluate them in light of other views. In addition, the presence of hate speech means that civil discussions tend to occur within “echo-chambers,” where only like-minded people converse with each other.
Despite this, Pirongrong suggested that a law to suppress hate speech in Thailand would not fix the problem, particularly because of political influence into any potential legislation.
Read the full Bangkok Post article.