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  Home > Thailand

Police To Seek Answers From Facebook Over False Bomb Alert

Facebook tried to claim Wednesday that its fake 'Safety Check' on Tuesday was triggered by local press reports of a protester at Government House - but its own memory-holed record show clearly it was re-reporting the August, 2015, bomb attack at the Erawan Shrine. (Screen grabs from FB, Internet Archive)


 December 29th, 2016  |  07:52 AM  |   834 views



The Royal Thai Police will seek an explanation from social media giant Facebook for its false bomb alarm in Bangkok on Tuesday.


Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Krisana Pattanacharoen said Wednesday the Information and Communication Technology Office (ICT) and the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) were in the process of issuing a letter to Facebook, calling on its executives to explain a false alert in its system about an explosion in Bangkok.


The move came after "news" of a bomb explosion in Bangkok spread like wildfire on Facebook and was also shared on the Line application on Tuesday night, but eventually tuned out to be a hoax.


Users by the thousands clicked on the Facebook Safety Check titled "The Explosion in Bangkok, Thailand", reporting they were safe, after the site sent out alerts saying an explosion had taken place somewhere in the city.


    EDITORIAL: Facebook's bad defence


No details of the alleged blast were provided, but many social media users were hoodwinked into messaging friends and family to say they had survived and were unharmed.


Pol Col Krisana said an investigation would focus on whether the false alarm was caused by a system error by Facebook or if it involved a group of people who wanted to stir up panic among the public.


If it is found to be the latter, legal action will be taken against the culprits for importing false information into computer systems which could jeopardise national security. Measures have also been devised to tackle the issue in case Facebook denies responsibility, he added.


Facebook Thailand, meanwhile, has defended the triggering of the false alarm saying an incident did really happen, referring to an incident of a Government House bomb threat reported by local media.


"The safety check was activated on Dec 27 in Thailand following an explosion. As with all safety check activations, Facebook relies on a trusted third party to first confirm the incident and then on the community to use the tool and share with friends and family," a Facebook spokesman said.


When Facebook's news service "saw" an old report of the August 2015 Erawan Shrine bomb attack, its algorithms kicked in automatically, but re-reported that the news happened on Tuesday evening.


The "explosion" Facebook later mentioned referred to a man from Nan province who threw giants firecrackers at police after he climbed to the rooftop of a bank in the Government House compound on Tuesday, demanding justice for a land dispute in his home province.


Facebook also referred to multiple news links from local press reporting that the man threatened to throw five "ping pong bombs".


THE MAIN REASON Facebook algorithms declared a fake Safety Check appeared to trace back to this US-owned 'aggregation site' which re-reported the August, 2015, Erawan Shrine bomb - and then went 'offline for maintenance' in order to try to memory-hole its own part in the fake-news panic. BangkokInformer.com remained offline Thursday morning. (Screen grab, Internet Archive)


By Wednesday morning, when Facebook started to pressure local media to stop reporting its "fake news" alert, the social media giant had deleted its own record, clearly showing it declared a Safety Check based on a regurgitated report of the August, 2015, bomb attack at the Erawan Shrine.


Screen captures of Facebook's deleted Safety Check clearly showed it made no reference to the protester with the ping-pong balls. Instead, it created an alert based entirely on one site's recalling the old Erawan shrine story.


Facebook and Bangkok Informer deleted their own records of the bomb story and resulting fake Facebook alert. The Bangkok Post and other news sources easily found the memory-holed records in internet archives.


Facebook Asia executives repeatedly harassed editorial staff at the Bangkok Post on Wednesday to try to force them to change their report on the fake-news Safety Check, citing the ping-pong bomb stories - which never mentioned the word "explosion".


Surangkana Wayuparb, executive director of the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, said the government will voice concerns regarding this feature on Facebook.


"We will keep this lesson in mind, and consider how to enforce laws to handle these widespread rumours and false alarms," she said.


Dhirapol Suwanprateep, a partner for the intellectual property practice group of Baker & McKenzie, said: "It's time for the government to react proactively in the case of any reports that are clearly not true on social media as it can cause widespread rumours. Thailand has a strong social media user base."


For the case involving the detention of Natdanai Khongdee, 19, in connection with cyber attacks against the amended Computer Crimes Act last week, Pol Col Krisana insisted there were no scapegoats as the arrests of all suspects have been conducted based on solid evidence.©



courtesy of BANGKOK POST



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