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Summary:

Thailand’s government is cracking down on opposition protests in Bangkok, leaving protesters wounded and dead. Opposition groups are using the Internet do get the word out, but live streaming sites like Livestream.com and Justin.tv can’t be accessed from within the country due to censorship.

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Thailand’s government is continuing its crackdown on video websites, as the conflict with the so-called red shirt opposition groups is getting bloody. Shots were fired in Bangkok today in response to ongoing anti-government protests, leaving at least two protesters dead and dozens wounded, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Opposition groups are also reporting about the situation live, but the Thai government has been stepping up its efforts to censor opposition media online. Groups like the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship have been using live streaming sites to report about the situation on the ground, but those streams are increasingly inaccessible from within the country. We reported last week that Justin.tv had been blocked in Thailand and we are now able to confirm that access to Livestream.com has been blocked as well.

Users trying to access Livestream.com from within Thailand instead get to see a website stating “This website has been blocked by ICT,” with ICT being the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the company told us this week after receiving feedback from Thai users. There have also been complaints on Twitter about Livestream as well as Ustream.tv being inaccessible from within Thailand.

It’s currently unclear whether Livestream or Ustream are actually hosting any streams dedicated to the protests in Thailand. Justin.tv has been hosting multiple streams critical of the Thai government, and the company was able to obtain email communication between a local ISP and a CDN vendor containing demands to forward all requests of the site to a government website informing users that Justin.tv is temporarily suspended due to an “emergency situation.”

Ethan Zuckerman from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society told me that he’s not surprised by the crackdown: “It’s not unprecedented for a government to target streaming media.” Iran’s shutdown of much of the country’s Internet connectivity after mass protests against the disputed election last year was also prompted by streams of the protests on the BBC and other sites, he said, adding: “The fear was that Iranians in cities other than Tehran would see people taking to the streets and follow them.”

In fact, research from Arbor Networks shows that video traffic to and from Iran almost came to a complete standstill right after the election. What’s new about Thailand’s video censorship is that live video sites are included in the crackdown as well.

Image courtesy of Flickr user pittaya.

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