A witch-hunt against political dissidents is nothing new. Nor is a witch-hunt against people who use the truth to expose the powerful. Too many times, the innocents are also branded as witches and are hunted.
Here’s something else that’s nothing new:
Petty tyrants who are insecure and paranoid, lighting torches and wielding pitchforks, leading an angry mob blinded by ignorance, in a witch-hunt against the people.
The Hunt for The Queen
In an interview with Workpoint News yesterday, blogger Queen of Spades asked these questions:
“Whenever we say something that might affect government securities, it becomes fake news? It violates the Computer Crime Act every time?”
“The law is to keep the peace in the nation, not to abuse [the people].”
Last month on her Facebook page, Queen of Spades exposed an alleged hoarding of some 200 million surgical masks. Photo and video footage show a businessman bragging about his stock of masks.
As well, another photo evidence shows the businessman in close company with an aide to a government minister belonging to the Palang Pracharat Party.
The story made national headlines. The businessman insisted footages were doctored. The minister threatened to sue anyone linking his name to the scandal.
Weeks passed, police investigation led to nothing.
Now, according to Daily News, Sonthiya Sawasdi, a member of Palang Pracharat Party, has filed complaints with the authority, accusing Queen of Spades of spreading fake news in violation of the Computer Crime Act.
In the interview with Workpoint News, Queen of Spades insisted that her evidence was all captured from the social media page of the businessman in question.
“I’m helping society because hospitals nationwide and the people are without masks,” she said. “The state distorts the news, accusing me of getting information from those who want to overthrow the government.”
“They couldn’t catch anyone, so they are after the whistleblower.”
The importance of intent and consequence
This past week, on the order of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society’s Anti-Fake News center, three citizens were arrested on Computer Crime charge, alleging that they spread fake news about “a 24-hour curfew to be imposed on Bangkok.”
This wasn’t fake news, this was false information caused by panic and misunderstanding. The source of the story was a government document stating a “scenario” that might necessitate the “possibility” of a 24-hour curfew in Bangkok.
Having misread the usually complicated wording of any government documents, some citizens panicked and quickly posted online that the curfew is coming. There was no intent to cause society to panic. No harm came of it.
By its very nature, social media is vulnerable to false information. But at the same time, false information on impertinent issues are usually quickly corrected. This is what happened in regard to the 24-hour-curfew social media post.
The incidence is not entirely dissimilar to last month when Government Spokesperson Naruemol Phinyosinwat said news regarding closure of some Bangkok venues were false.
It was only hours later that the Bangkok Governor made an announcement proving the news stories were true.
What is fake news?
In Thailand, fake news has become trending words, not just on social media, but on the lips of everyone from the prime minister to the average folks on the streets. But too often, what we say are fake news, in fact, are not as such.
They are merely false information.
Fake news are fabricated stories packaged as journalistic content and delivered to the audience by fake news media outlets. In fake news, there is the intent to manipulate society by masquerading false information as a real news story by a real news media.
What Queen of Spades posted was not fake news. She is not masquerading as a news media outlet.
She’s an independent blogger who “quoted” information from the accused’s own social media account. She’s a citizen tipping society off on an alleged crime. This is an act that ought to be encouraged, rather than persecute.
This is not to say there aren’t “false tips” or “false reports” on crime. But to persecute citizens for this is to allow criminals to run amok in society with little fear of repercussion.
The information quoted by Queen of Spades has since been deleted from the accused’s social media account, but can still be found on the internet.
Whether the information is true or false, the burden is on the police to investigate the suspect, not the person who merely reports the alleged crime.