Thailand’s on-line porn ban results in backlash from Reuters

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© Reuters. A protester wearing a cap with the Pornhub logo shows a three-finger salute during a protest after access to the Pornhub website was blocked at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society in Bangkok

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From Patpicha Tanakasempipat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Thai government said Tuesday it has banned Pornhub and 190 other websites showing pornography, which has sparked anger on social media over censorship and protest against the decision.

Digital Minister Puttipong Punnakanta said the block was part of an effort to restrict access to porn and gambling websites that are illegal under the country’s cybercrime law.

However, many Thai users have used the hashtag #SavePornhub on Twitter and criticized the closure of a website in a country that was among the top 20 in daily traffic for Pornhub in 2019 and has a world-renowned sex industry.

According to Pornhub, Thai users spent 11 minutes and 21 seconds more time on the site last year than anywhere else in the world.

An activist group called Anonymous Party said, “We want to reclaim Pornhub. People have the right to make choices.”

A few dozen activists protested the block outside the digital ministry, holding banners reading “Free Pornhub” and “Reclaim Pornhub”.

Pornhub did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Internet research firm Top10VPN announced that searches for virtual private networks (VPN) in Thailand that help circumvent censorship rose 640% from the daily average from September to October after Pornhub went inaccessible at the end of Monday.

Some internet users asked if the ban was about protecting Thai morality or if the website had some compromising royal imagery.

The Thai government has faced months of youth and student protests demanding the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, and reforms to reduce the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

A hashtag translated as #HornyPower is trending on Thai Twitter after the Pornhub block, accompanied by comments or memes that the government could now face greater resistance beyond the protesters.

“If someone doesn’t hate the current military government, they probably do now,” said a Twitter user named Jirawat Punnawat.

Emilie Pradichit, director of the Manushya Foundation, which advocates for digital rights, said the decision showed that Thailand is “a country of digital dictatorship, where conservatives in power are trying to control what young people see, say and say online can do”.

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