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"Liking" Some Facebook Pages in Thailand Could Land You in Prison

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Since its inception in 2007, the Facebook  ‘Like’ button has become a ubiquitous part of our online landscape, extending beyond the social networking website to news and retail websites, blogs. By making it possible for people to share pretty much anything they thought to be interesting with their Facebook friends, the ‘Like’ button has become a powerful tool for word of mouth advertising.

At the same time, the ‘Like’ button has also become a great source of data mining, because once you ‘like’ a page, your browsing information is sent to Facebook’s data centers. It’s not just advertisers who love such information; Governments are also recognizing the power of the ‘like’ button, or others like Google's '+1' button and LinkedIn's 'Share' icon, as tools to monitor the online activity of their citizens.

Take Thailand for example – reports that Thailand has outlawed the ‘liking’ of Facebook pages that are critical of the King and the royal family.

Thailand’s information minister said that anyone caught “liking” or “sharing” such pages would flout the country’s lèse majesté laws, and offenders could face up to 15 years of prison time.

It could be argued that such policing of the online world is vital, because of the potential organizing power of social media. As the website notes:

“The British police arrested some Facebook users for allegedly inciting disorder, looting and burglary during this summer’s riots in the country. They were eventually sentenced to four years in prison. In the United States, six teenage girls were detained after they used Facebook to send invitations to participate in a so-called “Attack a Teacher Day.” The punishments they received were not as severe, however: they were released into the custody of their parents and were suspended from school for several days."

However, as the Thailand case shows, the internet has increasingly become a Big Brother-like medium on which freedom of expression, once so prevalent online, is increasingly becoming limited.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the German state of Schleswig-Holstein ordered all websites based in the state to remove Facebook’s ‘like’ button or risk a fine of up to € 50,000 in order to protect its citizens from what it perceived as a gross invasion of privacy.

(See also: Entire Internet Rallies Against Online Piracy Bill That Will Pass Anyway and Bill Could Mean Jail for Justin Bieber, and Not for Crimes Against Music)

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