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New Vietnam Law Bans News Stories From Social Media Sites

2013-8-28
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

Internet activists and human rights groups are criticising a decree that is set to go into effect in Vietnam on September 1st. The order says blogs and social media sites in Vietnam should be used only to share personal information. It aims to ban social media users and bloggers from posting other information, such as news stories.

Local media reports say the decree states that such sites are "not allowed to quote, gather or summarize information from press organizations or government websites."

Prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved decree 72 in July. Internet activists say this is an attempt by the communist government to further restrict freedom of speech. Rights groups say the decree’s requirements are overly broad and will be used to act against government critics.

Others criticized a statement by Le Nam Thang, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications. State media reported him of saying that the law aims to help web users "find correct and clean information on the Internet."

But blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh says that is a matter of personal choice. She says, People should be able to decide for themselves whether information is good or bad. And she says, Vietnamese citizens do not need the government to coach them on how to think.

The decree sets out very broad categories of speech that officials could consider as troublesome. It includes warnings about information that is against Vietnam or undermines certain principles.

Shawn Crispin is the southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ. He says the increased restrictions suggest that the government thinks it has lost control of criticism that is so widespread on social media.

"The campaign has indeed intensified over the last year. Authorities seem to be using the tactic of singling out individual critical bloggers as a way of sending a signal to the larger community that this will not be tolerated."

It is unclear how the government means to enforce such widespread restrictions, and there is no word on what punishment would be given to those who break the law. But the deputy director for the Asia division at Human Watch, Phil Robertson says widespread enforcement may not be necessary to gain the government’s desire to effect. "This is a law that has been established for selective persecution," he says, "this is a law that will be used against certain people who have become a thorn in the side of the authorities in Hanoi."

And that’s the Technology Report from VOA Learning English. I’m Jim Tedder.