A computer screen shows the suspension of a pro-royalist Twitter account, in Bangkok, Thailand.(Reuters)
A computer screen shows the suspension of a pro-royalist Twitter account, in Bangkok, Thailand.(Reuters)

Twitter suspends Thai royalist account linked to influence campaign

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.
By Reuters | Posted by Mallika Soni | Bangkok
PUBLISHED ON NOV 30, 2020 01:00 PM IST

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 favour 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 favourable 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 programme, which is run by the Royal Office. A Facebook page for the Royal Volunteers School, which posts pro-monarchy videos and news of the programme, 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” programme 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.

Royalist Fightback

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.

A sample of 559 retweets of the account’s tweets were virtually all from accounts with bot-like characteristics, according to research by social media consultancy Drone Emprit for Reuters.

“Government forces have been trying to counter the protesters,” said Saijai Liangpunsakul of the independent Social Media Monitoring for Peace group. “Twitter has taken down some accounts, but there are many more.”

Hashtags promoted by the suspended account, usually alongside pictures of the king and other royals, included those that translate as: #StopViolatingTheMonarchy, #ProtectTheMonarchy, #WeLoveTheMotherOfTheLand, #WeLoveTheMonarchy and #MinionsLoveTheMonarchy.

Royalist group leader Warong Dechgitvigrom declined to comment on the account’s suspension, saying he was unaware of it.

He told Reuters there were more pro-monarchy messages on Twitter because royalists increasingly recognised the need to counter protesters’ messages and had encouraged each another to join the platform.

“Pro-monarchy hashtags are authentic, born out of true feelings,” he said.

Protesters accused by Royalists

Royalists have accused protesters of inauthentic activity on Twitter, with coordinated campaigns around hashtags.

But Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, one of the protest leaders, said protesters using the platform were genuine and he welcomed the suspension of the pro-royalist account.

“They’re not recruited to trend hashtags like the army and they don’t use taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Although not directly linked to the @jitarsa_school account, a 28-page army document reviewed by Reuters showed an organised information operation to target “opponents” and spread pro-monarchy messages on Twitter.

The document says 17,562 Twitter accounts run by 9,743 army officers are split into a “White Team” and a “Grey/Black Team” that were instructed to tweet with coordinated hashtags, as well as to like, retweet and follow one another.

The document suggests measures to appear more like authentic accounts.

The army on Saturday acknowledged the document is genuine, saying in a Facebook post it was used in a training session to strengthen the army’s public relations efforts.

In early October, Twitter announced it had taken down 926 accounts linked to the Thai army for violating its platform-manipulation policies by amplifying pro-government content and targeting political opposition figures.

The army at the time denied that the accounts belonged to army officials.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
app
Close
Confusion over Pfizer/BioNTech vial volumes emerged in December, when US hospital pharmacists realised that preparing the vaccine, by mixing it with saline solution, yielded enough liquid for at least six 0.30 ml doses.(AFP)
Confusion over Pfizer/BioNTech vial volumes emerged in December, when US hospital pharmacists realised that preparing the vaccine, by mixing it with saline solution, yielded enough liquid for at least six 0.30 ml doses.(AFP)

European countries struggle to make most of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:35 PM IST
Officials and healthcare professionals in France, Germany and Switzerland all pointed to yields short of six doses, adding to frustrations in countries already lagging vaccination campaigns in nations such as Britain and the United States.
Close
Residents queue up for the mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing at a makeshift community testing centre at Jordan, in Hong Kong, China January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu(REUTERS)
Residents queue up for the mandatory coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing at a makeshift community testing centre at Jordan, in Hong Kong, China January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu(REUTERS)

'One village, one policy': China keeps it local to battle Covid wave

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:34 PM IST
Addressing new clusters in Hebei and elsewhere, the National Health Commission (NHC) said last week that local officials needed to be on their guard and avoid "one size fits all" solutions.
Close
In August, 233 Indians, mostly students from all over China, left for home on the Guangzhou-Delhi Vande Bharat Mission special flight, in Guangzhou. (ANI file)
In August, 233 Indians, mostly students from all over China, left for home on the Guangzhou-Delhi Vande Bharat Mission special flight, in Guangzhou. (ANI file)

China gives no return date for Indian students stranded home

By Sutirtho Patranbois , edited by Vinod Janardhanan
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:33 PM IST
More than 23,000 Indians study in China. All but a handful had returned in a staggered manner in 2020 following the Covid-19 outbreak in China but are now stranded in their home country because Beijing has banned foreign students from returning to universities.
Close
Supporters cheer as President-elect Joe Biden campaigns for Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.(AP)
Supporters cheer as President-elect Joe Biden campaigns for Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.(AP)

Biden inauguration day: 3 Democrats to take Senate oath on January 20

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:33 PM IST
The three new Democrats leave the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and the Democratic caucus.
Close
A private car belonging to police officers was the target of the explosion.(AP file photo)
A private car belonging to police officers was the target of the explosion.(AP file photo)

Taliban attacks, violence kills dozens: Afghan officials

PTI, Kabul
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:16 PM IST
A statement from the defence ministry said four army soldiers were killed late Monday night in Taliban attacks on checkpoints in Kunduz province.
Close
The trade deal with the European Union removed a key obstacle for U.K. assets just as the FTSE 100’s undervalued shares are in demand amid expectations of a global economic rebound.(REUTERS)
The trade deal with the European Union removed a key obstacle for U.K. assets just as the FTSE 100’s undervalued shares are in demand amid expectations of a global economic rebound.(REUTERS)

EU slams Bosnia for failing to properly care for migrants

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:15 PM IST
Bosnia has faced sharp criticism for leaving around 1,000 people without shelter after a fire gutted the makeshift Lipa refugee camp near the northwest border with EU-member Croatia just before Christmas.
Close
US President-elect Joe Biden speaks at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US.(Reuters)
US President-elect Joe Biden speaks at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, US.(Reuters)

From Neera Tanden to Vivek Murthy: Indian Americans in Joe Biden's administratio

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Mallika Soni
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:04 PM IST
Here’s a look at the Indian Americans set to be part of the Biden administration
Close
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota.(REUTERS)
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota.(REUTERS)

Keystone XL pipeline: Why has Biden planned to cancel disputed Canada project

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 05:52 PM IST
Keystone XL pipeline was aimed to cut short the distance between Alberta’s oil sands and the Gulf of Mexico, where most of North America’s refineries are situated.
Close
The officer who died was a six-year veteran of the department.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/representative use)
The officer who died was a six-year veteran of the department.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/representative use)

California sheriff's deputy, driver dead following shootout

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 04:31 PM IST
The shooting followed an attempted traffic stop and the driver ended up crashing on the Cal Expo grounds.
Close
Parler’s domain name is now registered with Epik Inc., a website services company based in Sammamish, Washington.(AFP)
Parler’s domain name is now registered with Epik Inc., a website services company based in Sammamish, Washington.(AFP)

'Our return is inevitable': Parler CEO after app reappears

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 04:16 PM IST
“Our return is inevitable due to hard work, and persistence against all odds,” CEO John Matze wrote in a new post. “Despite the threats and harassment not one Parler employee has quit. We are becoming closer and stronger as a team.”
Close
It comes days after UK business leaders called for a British government rescue of the Channel Tunnel rail operator as border closures enforced to stop a highly contagious virus variant threatened to push the service toward the brink of collapse.(Reuters Photo)
It comes days after UK business leaders called for a British government rescue of the Channel Tunnel rail operator as border closures enforced to stop a highly contagious virus variant threatened to push the service toward the brink of collapse.(Reuters Photo)

Concerns grow over future of pandemic hit Eurostar rail service linking UK, EU

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 04:16 PM IST
Passenger numbers on the cross-Channel train service - which reaches UK, France, Belgium and Holland - have been down 95% since March and are currently believed to be less than 1% of pre-pandemic levels.
Close
Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny.(File photo)(AFP )
Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny.(File photo)(AFP )

Kremlin says unfazed by calls for sanctions over Navalny's detention

Reuters, Moscow
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 04:14 PM IST
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have said they want European Union foreign ministers to discuss sanctions against Russia over its handling of the case.
Close
In his speech Conte, who’s heading his second government, sought to win over pro-European centrists, unaffiliated lawmakers and senators from Renzi’s Italy Alive party.(REUTERS)
In his speech Conte, who’s heading his second government, sought to win over pro-European centrists, unaffiliated lawmakers and senators from Renzi’s Italy Alive party.(REUTERS)

Italian PM Conte appeals to Senate for government’s survival

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 04:10 PM IST
Fresh from winning a majority in the lower house Monday night, Conte needs the support of the Senate after junior ally and ex-premier Matteo Renzi abandoned his coalition in a clash over European Union recovery funds.
Close
Students get sanitised before entering classrooms as secondary schools reopen amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Peshawar, Pakistan.(Reuters)
Students get sanitised before entering classrooms as secondary schools reopen amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Peshawar, Pakistan.(Reuters)

Pakistan crosses grim milestone of 11,000 Covid-19 deaths

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:55 PM IST
Citing NCOC, Geo News reported that since the start of January 2021, the country has witnessed 48.8 deaths on average daily with hospital intensive care units nearing capacity as active Covid-19 cases surge to 35,485.
Close
"The Trump administration views the ACAs as a model to be replicated with other countries around the world," said the document written by the Democratic staff of the Foreign Relations Committee and commissioned by incoming Committee Chairman Bob Menendez.(REUTERS)
"The Trump administration views the ACAs as a model to be replicated with other countries around the world," said the document written by the Democratic staff of the Foreign Relations Committee and commissioned by incoming Committee Chairman Bob Menendez.(REUTERS)

Biden must end Trump's 'shameful' Central America asylum deals: Report

AFP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:47 PM IST
In 2019, the US signed Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACAs) with the members of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America -- El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- as part of its policy to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants across its southern border.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP