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Facebook runs afoul of Vietnam's new cybersecurity law

Social network accused of ignoring Hanoi's requests to remove critical posts

A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration photo, March 20, 2018.
Facebook has a large following among Vietnam's young, fast-growing social media population, with around 60 million users.   © Reuters

HANOI -- Facebook has been accused of violating Vietnam's new cybersecurity law over allegations that the social network failed to comply with Hanoi's requests to delete anti-government comments.

The case, reported by local media Wednesday, represents a much-anticipated test of the law, which took effect this month but whose details remain mostly shrouded in secrecy.

Facebook has a large following among Vietnam's young, fast-growing social media population, with around 60 million users.

The Ministry of Information and Communications said it had complained to Facebook that its requests to delete pages critical of the government went unanswered, the state Vietnam News Agency reported.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company has "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 has "restricted illegal content in Vietnam," the spokesperson said, citing examples from 2018 related to "issues including the alleged illegal sale of regulated products, trade of wildlife, and content alleged to illegally impersonate an individual in order to spread false information."

The one-party communist state's cybersecurity law has a stated intent of removing harmful information from the internet. It requires that personal information on Vietnamese individuals and data related to national security be stored on servers within the country, and calls on tech companies operating in Vietnam to maintain local offices.

Amnesty International said last June, when Vietnam's National Assembly approved the law, that the "decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression" in the country.

"With the sweeping powers it grants the government to monitor online activity, this vote means there is now no safe place left in Vietnam for people to speak freely," Clare Algar, Amnesty's director of global operations, said in a statement.

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