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Google reportedly agrees to filter YouTube website

(SEAPA/IFEX) - News reports in Thailand and the international press are saying that Google-owned YouTube has agreed to cooperate with Thai authorities in filtering sensitive content on its website, paving the way for the lifting of a Thai ban on the popular video-sharing website.

Bangkok's English-language daily, "The Nation", and international media such as the "Sydney Morning Herald" and the "Financial Times" of London say Thai information officials have been assured by Google that filtering programs have been put in place to selectively keep content deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy from being accessed inside the country. As of 31 August 2007, YouTube is again accessible in Bangkok, five months after the Thai government moved to block local access to the site. Videos mocking and maligning Thailand's highly revered monarch, HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, are no longer accessible. Some news and blog reports said they had already been taken down by the original poster, who also appears to have had his/her YouTube account discontinued.

Sitthichai Pookaiyaudoom, Thailand's minister for information and communication technology, told Agence France-Presse that the ban on the video-sharing service was lifted "after YouTube managed to find filter technology to screen out clips we do not want."

The controversial videos on the Thai king genuinely outraged the Thai people. He is much beloved in the Kingdom and is revered as a symbol for Thai values and aspirations.

The total ban on YouTube, however, was criticised by free expression advocates, especially proponents of the Internet as a medium for vibrant and unfettered discourse.

SEAPA questions the implications of reports that Google and YouTube are in effect colluding with the Thai government to censor a popular global platform. SEAPA said any such collusion could potentially be open for abuse, and thereby only exacerbate concerns over free speech over the Internet. SEAPA added that the cooperation between Google/YouTube and the Thai government could conceivably become a template sought by other governments that have had run-ins with sensitive content on the video-sharing site.

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