Legal Initiatives for Vietnam develops the Vietnam Chapter of Freedom House's Freedom on the Net 2021 report.
Overall score: 22/100 | NOT FREE
Obstacles to Access: 12/25
Limits on Content: 6/35
Violations of User Rights: 4/40
Internet freedom remained restricted in Vietnam, as the government enforced stringent controls over the country’s online environment. Though previously imposed connectivity disruptions and throttling of Facebook servers did not recur, the state continued mandating that companies remove content and imposed draconian criminal sentences for online expression. Online political organizing was sharply restricted ahead of the May 2021 legislative elections.
Vietnam is a one-party state, dominated for decades by the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Although some independent candidates are technically allowed to run in legislative elections, most are banned in practice. Freedom of expression, religious freedom, and civil society activism are tightly restricted. Judicial independence is absent.
Key Developments, June 1, 2020 - May 31, 2021
- Unlike during the previous coverage period, there were no temporary disruptions to connectivity or restrictions on Facebook’s country-based servers (see A3 and B1).
- Facebook revealed that the government had threatened to shut down its services in Vietnam should the company refuse to comply with requests for broader restrictions on critical content in November 2020. Subsequently, government requests for content removals reached record highs (see B2).
- The government restricted independent candidates from campaigning on social media in the May 2021 legislative elections, arresting some who announced their candidacy online and targeting others with smear campaigns (see B8).
- A draft decree on personal data protection was released in February 2021. If passed, it would require platforms to store data on Vietnamese users in the country and to provide that data to the government upon request (see C6).
- Several activists, bloggers, and individuals were handed severe prison sentences for their online speech, including three online journalists whose sentences ranged between 11 and 15 years imprisonment (see C7).