Activists in Thailand organized a large-scale DDoS attack on Wednesday, which overloaded the servers hosting government websites, in protest of documents leaked that laid out a plan to censor the Internet, according to Channel News Asia.
The documents revealed that a cabinet resolution insisted that the country must create a single gateway in which citizens of the country would be able to access the Internet. The only way users can currently reach the Internet outside of Thailand is through one of 10 gateways operated by a mix of private and state-funded companies. Reducing the number of gateways would make it easier for the Thai government to censor access to the web, but would also increase the chances of accidental “unplugging” of the country through hardware failure or other accidents.
At least eight government websites went down after followers and friends were encouraged through social media to repeatedly refresh pages. This is a relatively “low tech” form of denial of service, with most major DDoS attacks being carried out by a smaller number of people using automated tools to make repeated requests to servers. One of the websites crippled was Thaigov.go.th, the country’s main government domain.
In May 2014, the Royal Thai Army launched a coup d’etat against the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra during a shakeup. They imposed martial law and, before long, established a military-dominated legislature, with General Prayut Chan-o-cha being appointed to run the country by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Two days before armed forces took forced control of the administration, an Internet censorship taskforce was created.
Channel News Asia reported that there are “28 to 35 million Internet users on the computer” and “45 million on mobile phone.” They state that “the military government is adamant on increasing state control over online usage,” and in the documents leaked cited the need to prevent access to “inappropriate content.” What that actually means, would be up to them.
Perhaps, as activists fear, it would stifle their means of free speech and dissent. According to the Bangkok Post, Anudith Nakornthap, Former Minister of Information and Communication Technology for the Pheu Thai Party (which currently holds 265 out of 500 seats in the country’s House of Representatives) voiced similar concerns while criticizing the government’s plan. He also noted that a single gateway could greatly decrease Internet speeds, which would hurt businesses that rely on electronic sales.
Censorship has been an issue in countries such as Iran, as well as China, whose “Golden Shield Project” has earned the moniker “the Great Firewall of China.” In China, certain keywords searched will trigger error messages, limiting the information citizens of the country are able to be exposed to. The government insists that a single gateway system would help monitor and intercept what they deem to be inappropriateness, and delete it.
According to ABC News, the single gateway was approved on Sept. 1, and “only became public knowledge when a sharp-eyed Internet user spotted it on an obscure corner of a government website.”
Don Sambandaraksa of Telecom Asia wrote in a blog post last week that “The people of Thailand can kiss a fast internet goodbye purely from technical incompetence, not to mention all the monitoring, censoring and deep packet inspection the military want. Would VPN and encryption be outlawed? That would be a logical next step.”
A petition to stop the single gateway plan was created a week ago on Change.org, which has garnered 140,965 signatures so far.