Intersectional Powers of Digital Repression: How Activists are Digitally Watched, Charged, and Stigmatized in Thailand

Janjira Sombatpoonsiri


This article examines how digital repression tactics—surveillance, prosecution against online activists, and influence campaigns—work in tandem to contain dissent. I applied a mechanism-based approach to analyze interactive patterns of digital repression amidst Thailand’s 20202021 protests. These were multidirectional. First, digital surveillance provided the intelligence necessary for targeting key dissidents with charges for their online activism. Second, data gathered through surveillance sharpened narratives of proregime cyber troops to stigmatize protesters. Third, smear campaigns gave a pretext for lawsuits against protesters painted as a national security threat. I argue that these mechanisms leverage and reinforce the intersection of panoptic, punitive and framing powers underpinning digital repression, with panoptic power constituting the bedrock. This article speaks to broader studies on social movement repression: Digital repression allows states to deter and incapacitate movements while avoiding backlashes caused by overt crackdown.


digital repression, digital surveillance, criminalization, online influence campaigns, dissent, Thailand

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