Vietnam’s controversial cybersecurity law that tightens government control of the online environment just came into effect on Jan. 1 and it’s already claiming its first victim, writes the Financial Times.
On Tuesday, the communist country accused Facebook of not complying with its new law by refusing to immediately delete fan pages with content the government considers defamatory. According to Vietnam’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI), Vietnamese account holders freely published “slanderous content, anti-government sentiment and libel and defamation of individuals, organizations and state agencies.”
The cybersecurity law, passed in June 2018, forms part of Vietnam’s strategy to tighten media control and restrict free speech online.
“This decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression in Vietnam,” Amnesty International stated at the time. “In the country’s deeply repressive climate, the online space was a relative refuge where people could go to share ideas and opinions with less fear of censure by the authorities.”
Citing a Vietnamese market research report, the government body accuses Facebook of allowing advertising for scams and fake or illegal products. “The Vietnamese report claimed some $235 million was spent on Facebook ads in 2018, with $152.1 million going to Google,” writes TechCrunch.
As a result, Vietnam wants to penalize Facebook by taxing advertising revenue.
“We have a clear process for governments to report illegal content to us, and we review all these requests against our terms of service and local law,” Facebook responded. “We are transparent about the content restrictions we make in accordance with local law in our Transparency Report.”
Vietnamese authorities requested information on suspicious accounts, but Facebook refused to hand over user data, as it would violate community standards.