Vietnam bans netizens from sharing news, opinionBy Asian Correspondent Sep 02, 2013 4:43PM UTC
Vietnam’s controversial internet law came into effect on Sunday in a move that critics say will further restrict the freedom of information in the Southeast Asian nation.
Decree 72 has met with strong criticism from freedom of expression advocates and foreign companies doing business in Vietnam.
The decree introduced Sunday not only further restricts blogger activity, but imposes strict new rules on ordinary netizens. Social media users can now only use networks like Facebook and Twitter to “provide and exchange personal information”. Sharing or retweeting news or opinion articles is now illegal.
Vietnam regularly makes the headlines for locking up bloggers that criticize the government. At least 46 people, many of them pro-democracy bloggers, have been convicted and sentenced for dissident activities this year.
(READ MORE: A starving blogger’s Vietnam crusade)
Last month the US Embassy in Hanoi criticized the new law, saying it appears “to limit the types of information individuals can share via personal social media accounts and on websites.”
Others in a lengthy list of restricted activities include “disparaging the nation’s customs and traditions”, “superstitious practices” and publishing any material that “opposes” the Vietnamese government or “harms national security”. The punishments for failing to comply with the new provisions are still being drafted.
Businesses have also raised serious concerns about Decree 72. Speaking to Bloomberg, John Ure, executive director of the Asia Internet Coalition, which represents Google, Facebook, Yahoo and eBay, said:
The decree is a throwback to the days of autarky with its restrictions on the free use of the Internet and the arbitrariness of the restrictions, ill-defined in law. This decree is inconsistent with fostering the Internet to create a vibrant digital economy.
The Bloomberg article continues:
Domestic Internet companies will be required to have data servers inside Vietnam when the law takes effect. The government will issue guidelines to foreign-based companies later, according to the regulation.
Companies will also be required to monitor their websites for illegal content.
Vietnam’s authorities have responded to criticism by saying the new measures will be good for business by helping to fight plagiarism and protect intellectual property.