I noticed today that the WorldNews website has been blocked in Thailand.
If you go to “http://wn.com/” from a Thai IP address, you get the now increasingly familiar message that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) ordered your ISP to “stop publishing” the website you’re attempting to visit.
I was surprised WorldNews is blocked, since the site is little more than content aggregator from popular media sources such as CNN and the Guardian. Hardly a hotbed of insurrection or deviance.
As far as I’m aware, WorldNews behaves pretty well with regard to copyright. It cites “around 400 media partners” for its content. It publishes excerpts only, and then links through to the original content at the copyright holder’s site. And it’s no small fry: Alexa ranks it at 692 in the world, and it claims “around 12 million unique web users in the average month”. In other words, it’s a big, generic news aggregator with no agenda with regard to Thailand.
The aggregated Thai-language content on WorldNews came from mainstream sources Manager (ผู้จัดการ) and Thai Post (ไทย โพสต์). However, there hasn’t been anything new from Manager since July 2009 or from Thai Post since August 2008. Perhaps their “media partnership” ended. Or perhaps WorldNews gave up publishing content for a country that was blocking it.
So why would it be blocked? I’m guessing the reason isn’t the aggregated content. I think the problem may be that little “submit article” link that appears on every wn.com page.
Yep, WorldNews accepts uncommissioned content from the public. My guess is that someone managed to get something published there that was deemed offensive by MICT, and, rather than targeting that specific content, MICT blocked the entire site. Doing so conveniently avoids the risk of that content or something similar reappearing later.
The same thing happened with YouTube 2006 and 2007. On each occasion Google got the blanket ban lifted by offering to remove specific clips and to block similar resubmissions.
I doubt a robot site such as WorldNews has either the resources or the diligence to make such an effort. So the whole site remains blocked, despite now having very little in the way of content about Thailand.
But such is the way with Thailand’s overenthusiastic and unaccountable internet censorship. Extrapolating figures from research by the iLaw Foundation, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) calculates that by December 22 last year, when the Thai government lifted its emergency decree, 425,296 web pages had been blocked, either by the Royal Thai Police, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), or directly by internet service providers. FACT says the rate of new pages being blocked at that time was 690 per day.
If FACT is right and the rate has continued, then more than 480,000 web pages are now blocked in Thailand, and the country will hit the half-million mark in a few weeks.
I suspect that FACT’s extrapolations are a little unrealistic, and the ongoing rate from December 22 is likely to be lower than it was in preceding months. But with an election coming, and new redshirt protests underway, it’s possible that 500,000 may be reached this year.
Back to WorldNews, it appears that MICT themselves haven’t been particularly diligent when it comes to blocking the site. WorldNews’s region-specific flavours worldnewspacific.com and wnasia.net remain unblocked. Maybe that’s because these sites don’t feature a “submit article” link.
If you want to submit an article to WorldNews from Thailand, you’ll have to go to the extreme length of preceding the “wn.com” URL with the word “archive”. This will take you to the subdomain archive.wn.com, which is completely accessible from Thailand. It contains everything except today’s content.