Vietnam Censoring Bloggers

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The Vietnamese government is getting ready to clamp down on the thriving Vietnamese blogging culture. In fact, the government of Vietnam is putting in place new regulations aimed at curbing just about any form of free speech in Vietnamese blogs. The new regulations, approved this month, include rules that ban all posts that the government feels undermine the national security of Vietnam or that disclose Vietnamese state secrets. The rules, written by the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications, also ban any posts that contain “inaccurate information” that could potentially damage the reputation of individuals and organizations.

Although the Vietnamese government’s new rules now require bloggers to limit their posts to personal issues, the problems with the new regulations reach way beyond the actual rules. The problem is that the government considers just about everything damaging, inappropriate or a threat to national security, and, furthermore, what actually qualifies as “inaccurate information” is vague and subjective at best.

Moreover, the Vietnamese government plans to police Vietnamese blogs by requiring Internet companies that provide blogging platforms to report to the government every six months. During these report sessions, the Internet companies could be required to hand over any and all information about bloggers upon request and the Internet companies will be required to remove any material that the government deems harmful. In addition, the companies will be required to prevent any “harmful” content from being posted and the Ministry of Information and Communications expects all bloggers to use “clean, healthy, and Vietnamese language.”

It is important to note that so far, the regulations restrict the operation of Vietnamese firms only. It remains unclear as to whether or not the regulations will apply to international companies such as Yahoo or Google. Ministry official Luu Vu Hai has yet to reveal a plan for non-Vietnamese entities. Currently, the vast majority of Vietnamese bloggers use Yahoo! 360 for postings.

What does all of this mean for the future of Vietnamese bloggers? If the Vietnamese government plans to regulate international companies somehow, soon the country’s only alternative source for news (blogs) will be reduced to nothing more than a G-rated collection of posts about people’s personal lives. Or they could lose that international base altogether, given that Yahoo, along with Google and MSN, have joined the Global Network Initiative, and considering the pending legislation that would ban US companies from dealing with countries that censor the Internet.

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