The communist government of Vietnamese has enacted a series of Internet censorship laws that will help the government monitor and censor what its citizens view online.
The law passed last June and goes into effect today. According to NPR, the law places strict controls on Internet companies that operate in the country. It requires companies like Facebook and Google to open physical offices in Vietnam and to turn over user data to the Vietnamese government upon request. It would also require social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove comment deemed offensive by the government authorities.
The Vietnamese government claims that the law is necessary to provide cybersecurity for Vietnamese citizens, but the law’s opponents point out that it actually does very little to provide cybersecurity, and quite a lot to allow the communist government to oppress its citizens’ free expression.
Facebook, Google, and other companies have vociferously protested the law through the Asia Internet Coalition, their joint lobbying group in the region. The Vietnamese government has not yet published guidance on how the law will be implemented, and the tech giants are currently weighing the extent to which they will comply. The Vietnamese government has claimed that Google is taking steps to open an office in Vietnam in compliance with the law, but Google has not yet confirmed this claim.
Google has already faced severe criticism in Western nations for agreeing to create a censored version of their signature search engine at the behest of the Chinese government.
The new Vietnamese law presents perhaps the biggest challenge for tech companies who are facing a bevy of legislation from governments who are increasingly wary of the power large Internet companies possess. Regulators in the United States and European Union have scrutinized Facebook and Google for their handling of users’ personal data, and European countries in particular have asked social media companies to help crack down on “hate speech.”