Is it possible to stop people from discussing news or current affairs on the Internet? The answer is easy: obviously not. I can’t see how that is possible without shutting the Internet down completely. And, what does it mean to be an “enemy of the internet” anyway? To qualify for that, wouldn’t a nation state be engaging in destroying Internet infrastructure globally or doing everything possible to shunt the productive potential of the Internet for humankind?
Recently, Vietnam has earned that dubious distinction from Reporters Without Borders. China did too. Every chance the Western press gets to talk about this issue for Vietnam, they dutifully repeat this labeling. (For example, see this Reuters’s article.) Well, Internet adoption in Vietnam has been growing at 30%+ a year, so it is obvious the country is embracing rather than anything that label insinuates.
Is Vietnam engaged in undermining Internet use anywhere? I don’t think so. Instead, think for a second what Edward Snowden has revealed about the NSA’s and GCHQ spying of EVERY citizen on this planet.
Do the United States and the U.K. get labeled “enemies of the internet?” Nope. So, let’s just get this out of the way: Reporters Without Borders is a propaganda machine. Like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, their modus operandi is to trivialize atrocities for some countries while amplify certain other one’s.
Anyways, Vietnam is now also being accused of “banning online users from discussing current affairs” by the BBC or for similar “misdeeds” by other Western media.
Below is a fairly short article by the BBC on this matter and I thought I use it to illustrate how brain-dead this propaganda piece is.
1 September 2013 Last updated at 07:52 ET
Vietnam internet restrictions come into effect
A controversial law banning Vietnamese online users from discussing current affairs has come into effect.
Well, to claim anyone able to stop people from discussing current affairs on the Internet is simply comical. Perhaps the BBC could point to an example where this is achieved.
The decree, known as Decree 72, says blogs and social websites should not be used to share news articles, but only personal information.
If the BBC wishes its readers to know the details of “Decree 72,” it would provide a link. Obviously not. This is vaguely worded to mislead. It is likely Vietnam does not want foreign propaganda to roam freely within her borders. (The actual English version of Decree 72 is here. Thx Black Phoenix.)
The law also requires foreign internet companies to keep their local servers inside Vietnam.
Of course. Wouldn’t Vietnam want to know if such servers are clean, whether NSA and GCHQ have back-doors on them? Wouldn’t Vietnam want to be able to subpoena evidence should criminals try to rely on such servers to commit crimes within the country?
It has been criticised by internet companies and human rights groups, as well as the US government.
That criticism obviously is worth jack.
Vietnam is a one-party communist state and the authorities maintain a tight grip on the media.
Not any tighter than the U.S. or the U.K. for sure.
Dozens of activists, including bloggers, have been convicted for anti-state activity in the country this year.
Perhaps the BBC thinks Vietnamese “activists” and “bloggers” are not capable of violating the country’s laws. Perhaps there are overzealous cases where some of these people are innocent. But, BBC apparently is not interested in the specifics is it?
The new law specifies that social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook should only be used “to provide and exchange personal information”.
Well, if a Vietnamese user of Twitter searches for Vietnam, the government obviously wouldn’t want any anti-Vietnam results to show up on top first would it? Wouldn’t Vietnam want to stop the likes of Twitter and Facebook becoming media entities? For that reason, it is more likely what Vietnam is after today is only a trend to be followed by other countries. In fact, China outright blocks these services.
It also prohibits the online publication of material that “opposes” the Vietnamese government or “harms national security”.
I suppose Vietnam has no national security that could possibly be harmed and that’s why the BBC put quotes around it.
Last month the US embassy in Hanoi said it was “deeply concerned by the decree’s provisions”, arguing that “fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline”.
If the US embassy actually knows what “fundamental freedoms” mean, it would know better to let Vietnam determine her own course on use of the Internet.
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based group that campaigns for press freedom worldwide, has said the decree will leave Vietnamese people “permanently deprived of the independent and outspoken information that normally circulates in blogs and forums”.
Whenever a former slave owner tells the slaves it knows what’s best for the slaves, warning bell should go off. Perhaps for so many years of resource extraction, Reporters Without Borders might have a tiny bit of decency to call for the French government to give a bit of money to the Vietnamese.
Alas, this is a propaganda organization, so let’snot kid ourselves.
The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that represents companies including Google and Facebook, said the move would “stifle innovation and discourage businesses from operating in Vietnam”.
This is rich! On the very last quote, BBC draws from The Asia Internet Coalition. Obviously Vietnam is not represented in that coalition is she?
[Update September 2, 2013]
Also notice how the BBC misleads readers into thinking Decree 72 is singularly focused on banning discussions of news. It’s in fact much broader. Albeit short, the following take from China’s Global Times gives an infinitely more complete picture of what Vietnam is trying to do:
“Vietnam to tighten Internet service management”
Xinhua | August 06, 2013 20:12
The Vietnamese government has issued Decree 72 on the management, provision and use of Internet services and online information and games, local media reported Tuesday.
Accordingly, Decree 72, which will be enacted from September, consists of six chapters and 46 articles covering Internet services and resources, the management, provision, and usage of online information, the establishment of websites and social networks, information about telecommunication networks, online games, and online information safety and security, the Vietnamese Government Portal reported.
The decree regulates conditions needed for the development of Internet information forms by licensing websites, social networks, and service supply registration.
It also defines the rights and obligations of online information suppliers and users and the management of cross-border information supply in line with Vietnamese law and international conventions to which Vietnam is a signatory.
According to the decree, individuals have the right to collect and share information on social networks. It stipulates that individuals are allowed to cite information and attach a link to the source information so other people can refer to the original, full information.
To be licensed, individuals and organizations need to meet five criteria: being organizations and businesses established under the Vietnamese law; having management staff meeting requirements set by the Ministry of Information and Communications; registering web domain to establish a website and a social network; being competent financially, technically and organizationally with human resources fitting registered operation scale; and ensuring the taking of measures to guarantee information safety and security, quoted the report.