#BBCtrending: Thailand's mysterious Facebook blip

A Thai woman wearing a mask which reads 'no coup' Image copyright Getty Images

Facebook disappeared for millions of Thai citizens on Wednesday, for about an hour. The military - who are now ruling the country - blamed a technical hiccup, but many are suggesting the blackout was politically motivated.

The hour-long blip came a week after the Thai army seized power in a coup. Disgruntled Facebook users immediately took to Twitter, to express their outrage. The hashtag #facebookdown was used around 10,000 times in Thailand in the space of just a few hours. "I've had my roads blocked, my weekends ruined, parks flooded with protesters, but shut my #facebookdown and you go too far!" tweeted one. Others responded with humour: "Facebook was blocked by Thai army today for 1 hour, apparently work productivity levels increased by 1000%"

What was behind the site's brief disappearance though? At first there seemed to be a simple explanation - and one which many had feared. An official at a Thai government ministry announced the site had been blocked following a request from the army. But a military spokesperson later denied any involvement and instead blamed the outage on a technical problem with the gateway connecting Thailand with Facebook's servers. Ruben Bloemgarten, who works with the Chokepoint Project which monitors internet censorship, finds that explanation far fetched. That type of technical failure would prevent access to swathes of websites, he explains, not just Facebook, as was the case. "It is possible, but it's highly unlikely," he says. Facebook itself has declined to comment.

Theories about what happened are now rife. Richard Barrow, a journalist in Thailand, told BBC Trending it could have been a show of force - aimed either at discouraging Facebook users from posting anti-military comments on the site, or to push Facebook itself to remove the criticism. He tweeted: "Looks like the temporary shutdown of Facebook yesterday was a message to Mark Zuckerberg; cooperate with us or we will block all of Facebook."

Others speculated the downtime was triggered by the military body - known as the National Council for Peace and Order - but was done in error. "Why was FB down in Thailand? Unknown. My theory is censorship test backfired," tweeted Jon Russell, the Bangkok-based Asia editor for The Next Web.

The military seized power in Thailand on 22 May, saying it wanted to return stability after months of unrest in the country. The coup followed six months of political deadlock as protesters rallied against the government.

Reporting by Sam Judah and Samiha Nettikkara

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