The censorship arm of the Vietnamese government is at it again, complaining that it’s not getting enough censorship accomplished. The target of its complaints is, oddly enough, a former enabler of its dissent-stifling efforts, Facebook.
To help it snuff out criticism and dissent, the government granted itself expansive new powers with a cybersecurity law that went into effect at the beginning of this year. When a law is clearly written to target government critics, it appears that it can be applied a lot more broadly, especially when the definition of “cybersecurity” includes all of this:
According to the ABEI [Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information], Facebook had violated Vietnamese laws in three major areas of managing information content, online advertising and tax liability.
Facebook had not reportedly responded to a request to remove fanpages provoking activities against the State at the request of authorities.
Facebook had also allowed content from personal accounts to post slanderous content, anti-government sentiment and libel and defamation of individuals, organisations and State agencies. This content had been found to seriously violate Viet Nam’s Law on Cyber Security, Government’s Decree 72/2013, on the management, provision and use of internet services and online information and the MIC’s Circular 38 detailing the provision of public information across the border.
Just like that, criticism of the government becomes an cybersecurity threat, as does libel, defamation, and, um, providing public information across borders. Vietnam censors are angry Facebook hasn’t responded to multiple emails demanding the removal of “distorted or misleading” content. However, Facebook has responded, telling the Vietnamese government these posts don’t violate “community standards.”
Apparently, the Vietnamese government is going to tax Facebook into submission.
According to ANTS market research company, in 2018, spending on online advertising in Viet Nam was estimated at US$ 550 million, of which advertising spent on Facebook and Google were $ 235 million and $ 152.1 million respectively. However, the two have reportedly ignored their tax obligations in Viet Nam.
The fact that foreign businesses such as Facebook do not pay taxes had caused the state to lose money and float the online advertising market, said the ABEI.
If this doesn’t work (and it won’t), the government is going to do other vague things (“necessary economic and technical measures”) to hurt Facebook and “ensure a clean and healthy network environment.” One “necessary economic measure” is somehow blocking Facebook from collecting money for “hatred advertising,” whatever the hell that is.
What the government really wants is direct control. The Financial Times reports the government is demanding Facebook physically set up shop in Vietnam as the new law requires. Having a local office makes it that much easier for men with guns to follow up on ignored content removal requests. For exactly this reason, Facebook should never create a Vietnam office, unless it’s going to do it patent troll-style and rent out an empty office and tell the Vietnamese government all content removal requests must be mailed to the nearest strip mall with a Mailboxes, Etc.
The Vietnamese government doesn’t have much leverage as it loves having access to Facebook to deliver its version of events, as well as give its 10,000 full-time internet monitors something to look at. So, it’s not going to kick Facebook out. It’s just going to keep demanding fees it can’t collect while claiming anything anti-government is a threat to the nation’s safety.
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