Facebook users in Thailand have been blocked from viewing a video of their new King Maha Vajiralongkorn wearing a small yellow crop-top in a German shopping mall revealing his distinct temporary tattoos. The social media giant confirmed to Vice News that they have blocked the video because the Thai government believes it is insulting to the king and is in violation of the country's strict lese-majeste laws that make it illegal to criticise the monarchy.
"When governments believe something on the internet violates their laws, they may contact companies like Facebook and ask us to restrict access to that content," a company spokesperson told Vice News in an email.
When Facebook does receive these requests, the California-based company says it scrutinises it "to determine if the specified content does indeed violate local laws".
"If we determine that it does, then we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory and notify people who try to access it why it is restricted," the company said.
The video, captured by a Thai citizen on 10 June 2016, shows the 64-year-old monarch walking through a shopping mall in Munich with a woman believed to be one of his mistresses, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, also known as Koi. It also shows Vajiralongkorn's bodyguards.
The footage was taken months before the death of his father King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Vajiralongkorn ascended to the throne in December.
Former Reuters journalist and known critic of the Thai monarchy, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, posted the video to his personal Facebook page last month. After doing so, the Thai government banned all citizens from interacting online with him and two other overseas critics of the Thai regime.
The social media network also notified him about what content would be blocked and why.
Marshall posted the video to Twitter last week with the message: "Facebook is geoblocking this video of Thailand's King Vajiralongkorn so users in can't see it."
Vajiralongkorn has been pictured wearing similar clothing in the past as well. Earlier last year, the then-prince was photographed at Munich airport wearing faded jeans and a tight white crop top, and accepting salutes from the pilot and other aircraft staff.
Marshall told Vice that the latest video "chucks a bomb" into Thailand's strict laws.
"While people may not necessarily be surprised, I think it would have a significant impact if it was widely seen," he said. "It would help puncture the bubble of the monarchy."
The revelation comes as Facebook struggles to strike a balance between censorship and free speech.
Last year, the company drew sharp criticism over its moderation policies after it deleted various "explicit" images and videos that many slammed as censorship including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "napalm girl" photograph taken during the Vietnam War, a breast cancer awareness video from the Swedish Cancer Society and a photo of the naked 16th century statue of Neptune.
In recent months, Facebook has seen a disturbing uptick in graphic livestreamed and uploaded videos showing murders, suicides, rape and torture. Following public pressure over its response time, the company hired 3,000 extra people to review reports of such content.
In a recent lengthy manifesto, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook plans to evolve its community standards to make them more personalised and culturally relevant to different communities.
"The idea is to give everyone in the community options for how they would like to set the content policy for themselves," he wrote. "Where is your line on nudity? On violence? On graphic content? On profanity? What you decide will be your personal settings.
"For those who don't make a decision, the default will be whatever the majority of people in your region selected, like a referendum."