Thai royalist account suspended by Twitter

    530

    BANGKOK — Twitter has suspended a Thai pro-royalist account linked to the palace that a Reuters analysis found was connected to thousands of others created in recent weeks spreading posts in favor of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the monarchy.

    The Reuters review found tens of thousands of tweets that an expert said appeared to be from accounts amplifying royalist messaging in a push to counter a months-long protest movement that has swelled from opposing the government to breaking a longstanding taboo by challenging the monarchy.

    Internal army training documents reviewed by Reuters showed evidence of a coordinated information campaign designed to spread favorable information and discredit opponents.

    The pro-monarchy @jitarsa_school account was suspended after Reuters sought comment on Wednesday from Twitter on the recent royalist campaign on the social media platform, where protesters have long had a strong presence.

    Protesters and royalists have cited the importance of social media in propelling the protest movement, which has become the biggest challenge in decades to the monarchy as well as the government of former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.

    Created in September, the @jitarsa_school account had more than 48,000 followers before its suspension.

    “The account in question was suspended for violating our rules on spam and platform manipulation,” a Twitter representative said on Sunday. She said the suspension was in line with the company’s policies and not a result of the Reuters request for comment.

    The account’s profile had said that it trained people for the Royal Volunteers program, which is run by the Royal Office. A Facebook page for the Royal Volunteers School, which posts pro-monarchy videos and news of the program, also identifies the Twitter account as its own.

    Neither the school nor the Royal Volunteers headquarters responded to requests for comment on the suspension. The “Volunteer Spirit 904” program was established during the current king’s reign, which began in 2016, to build loyalty to the monarchy.

    The palace did not respond to a request for comment. It has a policy of not speaking to media and has not commented since the start of protests in July that initially targeted the government before breaking taboos by calling for curbs to the king’s powers.

    In recent weeks, royalist hashtags have begun trending on Twitter, an important platform for opponents of the government even before protests began in July.

    The Reuters analysis found that more than 80% of the accounts following @jitarsa_school had also been created since the start of September. A sample of 4,600 of the recently created accounts showed that all they did was promote the royalist hashtags – an indication of the kind of activity that would not be associated with regular Twitter users.