Vietnam's Internet decree receives backlash from US embassy in Hanoi
Vietnam’s latest decree on Internet freedom raises attention at the US embassy in Hanoi and online-freedom groups.
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The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that there are 14 imprisoned journalists in Vietnam, and Reporters Without Borders places Vietnam on its "Enemies of the Internet" list, alongside Bahrain, Cuba, and Iran.Skip to next paragraph
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Vietnam also runs the risk of angering foreign investors with its expanding repertoire of Internet laws.
Whereas China carries enough Internet customers to negotiate country-specific search settings with Internet companies such as Google, Vietnam does not have the same clout, says Abuza.
Decree 72 originally included provisions that would have required foreign Internet companies, such as Google and Yahoo, to have Internet servers and offices on Vietnamese soil for the sites to be accessible in Vietnam. This would have forced the companies to cede user information to the Vietnamese government, if asked. However, the Asia Internet Coalition – an industry association formed by eBay, Facebook, Google, Salesforce and Yahoo – issued a statement standing against these provisions, calling them possible impediments to foreign investment. Shortly after this, the Vietnamese government removed stipulations about having company servers in Vietnam.
But the new decree is not really that much of a change for Vietnam, says David Brown, a former foreign service officer in Vietnam and current commentator on the region.
While the Vietnamese government does need to figure out a way to curb the rampant aggregation and plagiarism that pervades many Vietnamese-language sites, a new decree always looks suspect, says Mr. Brown. New Internet laws come with the assumption that the government is trying to silence online dissent.
"The Vietnamese regime has a tendency to pass all kinds of restrictive edicts, decrees, and laws, which it doesn't enforce that well," says Brown. This new decree is "redundant" and reactions are overblown. Internet-savvy Vietnamese have been circumventing Internet restrictions for years and will continue to do so, he says.
"They write all of these laws, but they are either not enforceable or they are enforced so selectively that they are not perceived as a really tangible threat to the individual," Brown says.
As TPP negotiations continue and Vietnam has smoothed over its relations with the Asia Internet Coalition, Brown says that Vietnam is unlikely to make anything other than cosmetic changes to its Internet policies in the near future.