Facebook and Google have aided the Vietnamese government in censoring criticism and repressing dissent, says rights group Amnesty. In a new report, the group accuses the tech giants of “far-reaching complicity” by blocking content deemed critical of authorities.
Vietnam has a reputation for restricting freedom of speech, in recent years several bloggers have been jailed for publishing articles critical of the Communist state. “In the last decade, the right to freedom of expression flourished on Facebook and YouTube in Vietnam. More recently, however, authorities began focusing on peaceful online expression as an existential threat to the regime,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns.
“Today these platforms have become hunting grounds for censors, military cyber-troops and state-sponsored trolls. The platforms themselves are not merely letting it happen – they’re increasingly complicit.” Vietnam is one of the biggest markets in South East Asia for tech firms. In 2018, Facebook’s income from Vietnam neared $1bn (£750m) – almost one third of it’s revenue from South East Asia – says Amnesty, Google is said to have earned US$475million during the same period, primarily based on YouTube advertising.
According to Amnesty, there are 170 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, of which 69 were in jail “solely for their society media activity”. Vietnam has never banned social media companies, but in April this year, two sources at Facebook told news agency Reuters that their local servers were taken offline until it agreed to significantly increase the censorship of “anti-state” posts for local users.