The Vietnamese government tends to accommodate western social media platforms by trying to enforce their compliance with local rules through regulatory and economic means rather than blocking them altogether.


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INTERNET CENSORSHIP IN VIETNAM

Vietnam got connected to the Internet on 19 November 1997 after long debates within the top leadership about its pros and cons. Although pragmatic considerations of the Internet’s importance to socio-economic and technological development triumphed, how to deal with its potential harms remains a major concern for the CPV.

When the Internet was introduced to Vietnamese leaders in the 1990s, one of their immediate concerns was that toxic online contents such as pornographic materials would cause moral decay and social problems for the country. In December 1996, in order to convince the top leadership to open up the country to the Internet, officials reportedly had to demonstrate firsthand to members of the CPV Central Committee that they could use a firewall to effectively block pornographic websites. 2 A greater concern for the Party leadership, however, was that the Internet will facilitate the spread of anti-government propaganda and undermine the regime’s monopoly of information. Party conservatives were worried that a more connected society with freer flow of information would ultimately erode the Party’s rule.

As such, Vietnamese authorities have maintained certain measures of censorship to forestall unwanted consequences, especially by blocking “harmful” websites. So far, the censorship seems to be more political in nature, focusing on websites that provide anti-government propaganda or “sensitive” information unfavourable for the government’s political standing. For example, as of September 2019, while most pornographic websites are freely accessible in Vietnam, many international news websites that provide Vietnamese services, like BBC, VOA, RFI, and RFA, are still blocked. Blogging platforms such as Wordpress and Blogspot, which are popular among political activists and government critics, are also put behind a firewall. Some independent, private-run websites which carry news article or analyses deemed hostile to the government, such as Dan Luan, Luat Khoa, and Boxitvn, are also blocked. However, censorship does not seem consistent across all Internet services providers—some blocked websites or platforms may still be accessible to some users.


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