Vi Tran, co-director of Legal Initiatives for VIETNAM shared that Facebook should be, at the very least, honest to its users whenever their posts or accounts gets suspended.


Mai Khoi, the “Lady Gaga of Vietnam,” wants that country’s vigilante force kicked off Facebook. The company told her the group is well within its rules.

For the past two years, Do Nguyen Mai Khoi has been trying painfully, futilely, to get Facebook to care about Vietnam. The Vietnamese singer and pro-democracy activist, known best simply as Mai Khoi, has tried tirelessly to warn the company of a thousands-strong pro-government Facebook group of police, military, and other Communist party loyalists who collaborate to get online dissidents booted and offline dissidents jailed. Her evidence of the group’s activity is ample, her arguments are clear, and despite the constant risk of reprisal from her own country’s leadership, her determination seemingly inexhaustible. The only problem is that Facebook doesn’t seem interested at all.

Facebook, once briefly heralded as a godsend for a country like Vietnam, where social media allows citizens to squeeze past the state’s censorship stranglehold on traditional media, has now become just another means of strangulation. Private groups filled with government partisans coordinate takedown campaigns — or worse — against any views deemed “reactionary” by the Vietnamese state, while Facebook continues to do little but pay lip service to ideals of free expression. The Intercept was able to gain access to one such closed-door Vietnamese censorship brigade, named “E47,” where it’s obvious, through Facebook’s apparent indifference, that the company has failed its users terribly.

To ensure that it continues to enjoy a dominant, highly lucrative share share of Vietnam’s corner of the internet — reportedly worth $1 billion annually — Facebook increasingly complies with content removal requests submitted by the country’s government on the basis that the content itself is illegal in Vietnam. It’s a form of censorship employed by governments worldwide, and one that Vietnam seems to have played hardball to enforce: In April, Reuters reported that the Vietnamese government slowed Facebook’s servers to the point of inoperability, leading Facebook to agree to comply with more official takedown requests.

But as Mai Khoi discovered, Vietnamese Facebook is also plagued by unofficial censorship, achieved not by declaring content illegal but by coordinating users to flag it for violating Facebook’s own content rules, known as the “Community Standards.” This dupes Facebook into removing ordinary political speech as though it were hate speech, violent incitement, or gory video.

In a sign of just how desperate the situation has become, many Vietnamese dissidents threatened by Facebook’s inaction say that for now, they’d settle for honesty. “Dealing with Facebook is like a walk in the dark for us activists,” said Vi Tran, co-founder of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, a pro-democracy group. “If Facebook decides to delete a status for any reason, please let us know what is the reason. Giving us the ‘violation of Community Standards’ is not enough because it is arbitrary and vague.”

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