The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned a new cybersecurity law passed today by Vietnam's National Assembly as a clear threat to press freedom and called on the Vietnamese government immediately to repeal it.
The legislation, which goes into
effect January 1, 2019, gives broad powers to government authorities to surveil the internet, including the ability to force international technology companies with operations in the country to reveal their users' personal information and censor online
information on demand, according to news reports said.
The law's vague and broad provisions ban any online posts deemed as opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, or which [offend] the nation, the national flag, the national
anthem, great people, leaders, notable people and national heroes, according to the reports. The same sources state that the law's Article 8 prohibits the use of the internet to distort history, deny revolutionary achievements or undermine national
The law also prohibits disseminating online incorrect information which causes confusion among people, damages socio-economic activities [or] creates difficulties for authorities and those performing their duty, according to reports.
After January 1, 2019, companies will have 24 hours to remove content that the Information and Communications Ministry or the Public Security Ministry find to be in violation of the new law.
Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Southeast Asia
Vietnam's new cybersecurity law represents a grave danger to journalists and bloggers who work online and should be promptly repealed. We expect international technology companies to use their best
efforts to uphold their stated commitment to a free and open internet and user privacy and to resist any attempts to undermine those commitments.
Vietnam's regime has revealed that it has hired an enormous 10,000 people to work in a new cyber warfare unit, known as Force 47. Its main aim is to battle 'wrong' views being spread online.
The announcement came in a speech on Christmas Day
given by Nguyen Trong Nghia, a senior lieutenant-general in the Vietnam Communist Party's People's Army. According to state-run media outlets, Lt Gen Nguyen claimed that enemies of the Communist party were currently able to create chaos online.
a result, it claimed it was necessary that in every hour, minute, and second we must be ready to fight proactively against the wrong views. The new Force 47 has already been compared to the so-called 50-cent army employed by the Communist regime in
neighbouring China, who are paid 50 cents for every website they highlight that breaches regulations.
Vietnam's internet is changing fast. This week two new offences with large fines have been introduced as part of decree 174.
If a site does not have a proper e-commerce license, does not report changes, and does not report service changes on their site it will be liable to fines of $200 to $1,000
If a site reports incorrect information, and/or falsified
information (the 'correctness' of information being decided by the authorities): $1,000 to $1,400. If any of these violations are intentional, the fine is doubled.
This follows up on Decree 72, which restricted the posting of news onto social media. The law states that it will fine people who post propaganda against the state or reactionary ideology on social media channels like Facebook.
A repressive law banning Vietnamese online users from discussing current affairs has come into effect.
The decree, known as Decree 72, says blogs and social websites should not be used to share news articles, but only personal information. It also
prohibits the online publication of material that opposes the Vietnamese government or harms national security .
The law also requires foreign internet companies to keep their local servers inside Vietnam.
It has been widely
criticised by internet companies and human rights groups, as well as the US government. Last month the US embassy in Hanoi said it was deeply concerned by the decree's provisions , arguing that fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do
The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that represents companies including Google and Facebook, said the move would stifle innovation and discourage businesses from operating in Vietnam .
Google, Facebook, and other Internet companies may be required to censor their content in Vietnam, an overseas group said based on draft regulations that have been released. The new rules will be considered for approval in June.
If adopted, the draft
decree, released by the Ministry of Disinformation and Blocked Communications, would require foreign businesses to cooperate with Vietnamese authorities in removing information from their sites.
U.S.-based Viet Tan Reform Party said that the
rules, which are the latest in a pattern of sweeping Internet restrictions that are difficult to implement in practice, and harm both technology providers as well as end users:
Like many government directives in
Vietnam, the language in this document is vague and ill-defined, leading to multiple interpretations and possible arbitrary implementation by authorities.
Under the rules, foreign companies that provide online social networking
platforms in Vietnam must make pledges in writing to follow local censorship laws and remove information, including those that is against the Vietnamese government, damage[s] social and national security [or] promote[s] violence, the
Foreign companies may also have to house data centers in Vietnam, according to Viet Tan, in a move that would force them to obey domestic rules.
The new rules also address individual Internet users, who will be required to
use their real names online. Internet companies will be compelled to help the government enforce restrictions like these on individual users, according to Viet Tan.
Bloggers are restricted from engaging in any prohibited online activities and will be held personally liable for all the published content on their blogs.
The new rules further stipulate that news websites must be approved by authorities and adhere to existing local press law, or else risk being shut down, and website administrators must report instances of prohibited online activity to authorities.