fb isn't going to take a loss on your free speech

Facebook blocked a group with over 1 million members in Thailand because it is critical of the Thai monarchy. In Thailand it’s illegal to criticize the monarchy. This isn’t some ceremonial law that never gets enforced. People are regularly jailed for breaking it. 

Facebook says it is mounting a legal challenge because this is an unjust law and so on. But they are still complying, because it’s the law and that’s what companies have to do. The company faced a $6,300 per day fine as long as the group remained accessible in Thailand. 

The Thai law can cause problems, such as in 2019 when a member of the Thai monarchy considered running for office. How can you run against someone you can’t legally criticize? 

But given Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws, it’s hard to imagine her opponents or political analysts openly criticizing her. They certainly have good reason to be wary. Some form of lèse-majesté law has been on the books since 1908, though the law was expanded and has been more strictly enforced since a military coup in 1976.

You can’t even make a joke about the king’s dog. Or publish an article ABOUT a man being charged for making a joke about the king’s dog. 

With tools like fines and throttling (Vietnam’s preference), countries with unjust laws can compel companies to enforce on their behalf. This is why it’s essential to support tools for online privacy that do not depend on trusting a company to protect your identity. What’s worth more to them: your political speech or $6,300 a day? 

If you’re reading this I probably don’t have to tell you about Buzzfeed’s massive investigation into China’s re-education camps for minority muslims. But if you haven’t read it, here’s the thread. 

There’s a lot to it, but what stood out to me was very specific. One of the given reasons for why someone might be thrown into these camps is having the wrong software on their phone. A woman interviewed was told she was imprisoned for having installed WhatsApp. 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been poisoned, according to German doctors. If that does not silence him, a Putin ally has plans to destroy him financially.

A notorious ally of Vladimir Putin says he will use Russia’s corrupt courts to destroy Alexei Navalny financially if the stricken opposition leader ever recovers from a chemical agent believed to have been slipped into his tea.

On Tuesday night, his company Concord announced that it would do everything it could to collect a court-ordered fine of 88 million rubles (around $1.2 million) that he bought from Moskovsky Shkolnik (Moscow Schoolboy), a company Navalny was found guilty of defaming in a video report, according to the Moscow Times.

If it’s true that this court order will come via an unfair court system, then the legal bankrupting of a major opposition leader is particularly gross. Banks will have to comply. And that will be that. 

Navalny, for his part, at least has had people thinking about these risks for some time. 

China’s Central Bank Digital Currency may be a factor in its takeover of Hong Kong, where the US dollar reigns. 

But there’s one element of the new payment system that will give some Hong Kongers pause: 

The digital yuan won’t offer the same anonymity as cash, and that could be a showstopper. With Hong Kong still digesting the implications of a national security law recently imposed by Beijing, users could have apprehensions about revealing their financial lives to Chinese authorities. That’s probably why the Xinhua report was quick to deny plans to pilot the tokens in the city.

Some citizens have already shown an awareness of the risks that come with using a surveillable payments system.

That’s a pretty big hurdle. 

Did you know blasphemy laws are still enforced around the world? In Russia, vague language in a relatively new blasphemy law is abused by some in the religious right to punish artists and stifle criticism. As CodaStory reports

However, the Kremlin also had a clear political motive for banning blasphemy. In the wake of huge street protests against rigged elections in 2011 and 2012, the Russian government began a rhetorical pivot towards traditional values, leveraging religious and patriotic sentiment to bolster its popularity.

And in Nigeria, an Atheist activist was arrested and hasn’t been heard from since.

But her husband, Mubarak Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was not one to filter his words. On April 25, he logged on to Facebook again and typed a post calling the Prophet Muhammad a terrorist.

Three days later he was arrested by the state police after being accused of violating anti-blasphemy laws, which can carry a death sentence. He has not been seen since.

Gotta talk about my day job quickly. 

Here’s our take on the FATF/travel rule stuff that has people concerned. 

We will probably do a podcast or something about this soon. The basic gist is we interpret the FATF sentence mentioning “whitelisting” to simply be exploring options, not signaling any imminent change, and we’re confident FinCEN is not considering any such changes anytime soon. 

As for the “travel rule” it’s the same rule that’s applied to cryptocurrency since 2013, and while the threshold may be tightened to meet FATF’s June 2019 recommendations, there really is no new risk we haven’t known about. 

Also, we published this nice summary of our policy positions. Probably should have had something like this before now. Here it is: The ideal regulatory environment for Bitcoin

Obviously I am going to end this week’s newsletter with the funniest thing I’ve seen all year 

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