Research Assistant for Social Media Accountability in the 2023 Thailand General Election

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

DigitalReach on behalf of the Southeast Asian Coalition on Tech Accountability (SEACT) is looking for a short-term consultant to document the social media platforms accountability in the upcoming 2023 Thailand Election.

Social media platforms often play a significant role in elections around the world as it is a key channel for political election campaign to take place. However, often that the platforms have been weaponized to spread misinformation and disinformation and hate speech for political advantages. As election is a foundation for democracy, this is a concerning situation as it has been documented that the malicious information can influence public opinion. Platforms have always been criticized for not being able to do enough to keep their platforms free from the malicious information resulting in the election being manipulated.

In Thailand, the country has had a history of state-sponsored cyber troops that is also known as Information Operations (IO). It was first exposed in 2020 in the parliament in which the opposition provided evidence that the Thai military is behind the operation. Political critics have admitted their social media accounts have been attacked by the operation. This led to a a court case in 2021 where some critics have decided to file a lawsuit against the military regarding the operation. Twitter also discovered at least 926 accounts to be linked to the Thai military in 2020 that are associated with the IO, while Facebook reported to remove 185 accounts and groups to be linked to the Thai military regarding the operation in 2021.

Given the country’s political dynamics, the situation of social media being weaponized is not expected to be limited to only the IO. Freedom of expression has long been threatened by the use of lèse-majesté offense for political purposes. As the more progressive side is campaigning for a repeal of the lèse-majesté laws, this goes against the tide of those who adopted a more politically conversative ideology that consider the idea to be a disrespectful act towards the Thai monarchy, or worse. Some parties even announced that they would do everything to prevent the repeal from happening. This leads to a question of how the situation might become a debate between a progressive and the conversative in the election campaign, and whether this law would be weaponized during the election campaign against particular individuals or parties.

Following the recent Ministerial Regulation of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society  (MDES) that came into effect in December 2022, the situation might also be more complex during the campaign period. This is because the new law requires social media platforms to remove content considered to violate offences in the 2017 Computer Crime Act within 24 hours, and the owner of the content cannot appeal if the removal happens. The country has a history of requesting social media platforms to remove content many times, and this content is usually associated with lèse-majesté. In 2020, Facebook blocked the “Royalist Marketplace”, a satirical group that criticizes the Thai monarchy from audiences in Thailand after the MDES threatened a legal action against the company under the CCA. In early 2023, it has been reported that the group was blocked again in Thailand for several hours.

In the upcoming 2023 election, this situation might have contributed to the election, among others. This research is therefore looking at how social media platforms can be more accountable to human rights and democracy given the situations that may occur during the election campaigns. What happens might violate the platforms’ policies or clearly wrong based on the moral standards, but what is of concerned is whether social media platforms will take any adequate actions to handle the situations to prevent their platforms being a place where malicious content harbors.  

This research is part of the regional project under the SEACT to explore social media platform accountability in the national elections throughout Southeast Asia. As an election is an important foundation of democracy, exploring the accountability of the platforms during the event helps determining how the platforms play a role in shaping democracy of a country. Prior to Thailand, research projects at a country level have been done in the Philippines and Malaysia in 2022. Thailand is the first country that a national election will happen in 2023.

OBJECTIVES
WORK DESCRIPTION

The researcher will be responsible for the project on the following tasks;

QUALIFICATIONS
TIMELINE AND DELIVERABLES*
DetailsTimeline

April – May, 2023

The research assistant assist the researcher to monitor the situations in the lead-up to the election. During the period, the researcher simultaneously conducts an in-depth interview with related stakeholders, particularly social media platforms regarding their preparation (if it’s not available on the online source already).
May, 2023 (Post-Election)
The research assistant assists the researcher in analyzing information gathered during the pre-election and conducting post-election interviews with social media platforms to learn about their success measures in terms of their efforts and whether the efforts are efficient.
June 2023 The first draft is expected to be ready by the second week of June. The final draft is expected to be finished by the final week of June.

*The timeline might be changed based on the situation.

CONTRACT DETAILS

The researcher will work for 3 months starting from April 1, 2023 – June 30, 2023, during which the consultant is expected to complete the tasks described above, based on a work plan agreed upon with DigitalReach, the SEACT’s secretariat. The work is full time (40 hours a week) and the consultant is expected to be responsive to communications and provide updates related to the work on a weekly basis. The compensation is 3,000 USD (three thousand dollars) for completing the tasks.

HOW TO APPLY

Please submit the following application documents to [email protected] by March 26, 2023. All documents are preferably in PDF.

This announcement can be download here.

About DigitalReach

DigitalReach was founded in 2019 with the objective of assessing the impact of technology on human rights in Southeast Asia. The organization’s mission is to safeguard digital rights and internet freedoms in the region. Our work revolves around three core strategies, which are research and monitoring, advocacy, and community building and empowerment.

About the Southeast Asian Coalition for Tech Accountability (SEACT)

The SEACT was founded in 2021 as a coalition that looks into accountability of social media platforms on human rights and democracy in Southeast Asia. The coalition was founded as a result of DigitalReach’s observation that sees attempts of digital authoritarianism in the region in controlling how social media platforms should operate. As of 2023, the coalition has 14 member organizations across 8 countries in Southeast Asia.

Latest Updates

2 months ago
Breaking Free: The People’s Amnesty Act Campaign
In recent years, Thailand has found itself at a crossroads, grappling with escalating political tensions that have reverberated across the nation. Amidst this tumultuous landscape, waves […]
2 months ago
Behind the MFP Lèse-majesté Ruling: The Battle for Human Rights and Civic Spaces in Thailand
In a pivotal moment on January 31, 2024, the Move Forward Party (MFP) faced a daunting setback as their attempt to amend Thailand’s Article 112 encountered […]
June 25, 2021
Online People-Watching: Censorship, Surveillance, and the National Internet Gateway in Cambodia
On February 16, 2021, the Cambodian government issued the Sub-Decree No.23 on the Establishment of National Internet Gateway.  The law will result in the implementation of […]