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Web videos outrage Thailand April 6, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News, Web Video, YouTube.
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In what’s shaping up to be a fight for free speech online, new videos mocking Thailand’s revered king popped up today on YouTube. Thailand says a ban on the popular video sharing site stays until the clips are removed.

As YouTube and Google deleted the last images of an original offensive video, a user with the name “Thaifreespeech” placed a new clip ridiculing the monarch on YouTube. The video was viewed more than 7,000 times in one hour, attracting 160 comments, mostly vitriol against the clip and its maker.

The likelihood of more copycat inflammatory clips on YouTube and online video services suggests that Thailand could block more such sites. Thailand takes its monarch pretty seriously and has tough laws that prohibit any insult against the royal family.

The Thai government banned YouTube this week after it failed to block the first video deemed insulting to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, regarded by many Thais as semi-divine. Thailand maintains the clips violate YouTube’s terms of use, which among other things prohibit racist or defamatory material.

The original video appeared to have been withdrawn by its creator, with a notice on the site saying it had been “removed by the user.” Like the first video, one of the new postings showed images of the king’s face covered with graffiti or juxtaposed with images of feet, considered deeply offensive by Thais. Another clip showed pictures of the king digitally altered to resemble a monkey, with messages saying Thai leaders are “evil and hate free speech”.

This group of people has found another outlet, taking another action that is considered very offensive to the king. Vissanu Meeyoo, Thai Communications Ministry Spokesman

The controversy has created heated debate online. One user on YouTube called the offensive videos an act of discrimination against Thailand and its culture. Another posted a Thai commercial showing people around the country discussing why they revere the king. Most accused the creator of the clips of racism or defamation, in often vulgar terms.

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