Internet Restrictions In Vietnam Now In Effect
September 2, 2013

Vietnam’s Controversial Decree 72 Internet Regulations Go Into Effect

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A controversial law banning Internet users in Vietnam from discussing current events went into effect on Sunday.

The measure is known as Decree 72, and according to BBC News it prohibits bloggers and social media users from sharing news articles – only personal information. The law also requires foreign Internet companies to maintain local servers within Vietnam.

The regulations have been widely criticized by online companies, human rights organizations, and the US government, the British news organization said. The law was enacted by Vietnam’s ruling communist party and also prohibits the online publication of material that opposes the government or is deemed harmful to national security.

“Last month the US embassy in Hanoi said it was ‘deeply concerned by the decree's provisions,’ arguing ‘fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline,’” the BBC said. Likewise, Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said Internet users, due to Decree 72, would be “permanently deprived of the independent and outspoken information that normally circulates in blogs and forums.”

In a statement released last Monday, the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of 21 governments collaborating to advance Internet freedom, said it was “deeply concerned” by Decree 72, which they said “restricts online information flow and limits the sharing of certain types of news and other speech” and “appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“Decree 72 risks harming Vietnam’s economy by constraining the development of businesses in Vietnam, limiting innovation, and deterring foreign investment,” they added. “An open and free Internet is a necessity for a fully functioning modern economy; regulations such as Decree 72 that limit openness and freedom deprive innovators and businesses of the full set of tools required to compete in today’s global economy.”

The coalition called upon the Vietnamese government to revise the declaration to make sure it promoted the ability of Internet users in that country to exercise their right to freedom of expression. Similarly, the Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group representing companies such as Google and Facebook, told BBC News Decree 72 would be harmful to innovation and would discourage online firms from operating in Vietnam.

On August 6, Nguyen Thanh Huyen, the head of Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications’ Online Information Section, told Reuters, “We never ban people from sharing information or linking news from websites. It was totally misunderstood. This is a normal decree which doesn't go against any human right commitments.”