SINGAPORE / BANGKOK, June 28 (Reuters) – Google on Monday withdrew two Google Maps documents that listed the names and addresses of hundreds of Thai activists accused by royalists of opposing the monarchy, the tech company said.
Thai royalist activist Songklod “Pukem” Chuenchoopol told Reuters that he and a team of 80 volunteers had created the cards and planned to report all those named on them to police for insults to the monarchy.
A Google spokesperson for Alphabet (GOOGL.O) said by email that “the issue is now resolved” and noted, “We have clear policies on what is acceptable for My Maps content generated by the users. We remove user-generated maps that violate our policies. ”
A version of one of the cards seen by Reuters included the names and addresses of nearly 500 people, many of them students, as well as their photos in college or high school uniforms. He had received over 350,000 views.
The faces of the people cited had been covered with black squares bearing the number 112, in reference to the article of the country’s penal code which punishes up to 15 years in prison for insulting or defaming the monarchy.
Neither card was accessible when Reuters attempted to open them late Monday.
Songklod said he and the team of volunteers sought to pinpoint those they accused of breaking this law.
“When each of us sees something offensive posted on social media, we put it on the map,” he said. Describing it as a “psychological” war operation, Songklod said the aim was to deter people from criticizing the monarchy online.
The youth-led protests that started last year have sparked unprecedented criticism of the monarchy and calls for its reform both on the streets and online.
The government did not immediately respond to comments about the removal of Google Maps or the content it contained.
Songklod, 54, a retired army captain and prominent right-wing activist, said he viewed the operation targeting opponents of the monarchy a “massive success” despite the removal of the maps.
The royalist activist said their content came from public research.
Human rights groups and establishment critics said the maps included the private data and addresses of hundreds of people and could put them at risk of violence.
“I started receiving panicked messages from young people in Thailand who had been doxed in a royalist document on Google Maps accusing them of being anti-monarchy,” said Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a Scotland-based monarchy critic and one of the first to highlight the existence of cards.
“It is clear that young Thais who just want democracy face escalating risks. “
Reporting by Fanny Potkin in Singapore and Panu Wongcha-um in Bangkok, additional reporting by Jessie Pang; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Alison Williams
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