Facebook increased Vietnam content restrictions by 500% during 2018: report

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of the Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/ File Photo)

HANOI – Facebook increased the amount of content it restricted access to in Vietnam by over 500% in the last half of 2018, the US social media giant said in a report released on Friday, as the Southeast Asian country ramps up its crackdown on online dissent.

The increase happened as Vietnam was tightening internet restrictions, culminating in a cybersecurity law that came into effect this January, which requires companies to set up local offices and store data in the country.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International said nearly 10% of the 128 prisoners held in Vietnam for expressing dissenting views were jailed for posting anti-state comments on social media platforms such as Facebook.

The website is widely used in the country and serves as the main platform for both e-commerce and dissent. In January, Vietnam accused Facebook of violating local laws by allowing users to post anti-government comments.

From July to December last year, Facebook’s Transparency Report said it had restricted access to 1,553 posts and three profiles in Vietnam, compared to just 265 such “restrictions” in the first six months of 2018.

A restriction refers to a piece of content posted to Facebook which is not viewable in some countries because it is deemed to violate local laws.

“There are times when we may have to restrict access to content because it violates the law in a particular country, even if it does not violate our community standards,” a Facebook spokeswoman told Reuters.

“We publish information about the content we restrict based on local law in our Transparency Report, and notify the person who posted the content that it has been restricted,” the spokeswoman said.

Facebook’s Transparency Report said it had made restrictions based on reports from Vietnam‘s information and security ministries.

According to a report posted on Vietnam‘s government website on May 7, Facebook has so far removed more than 200 posts containing anti-state content in Vietnam following takedown requests by the government.

The Vietnamese government report said Hanoi has set up a working group between Facebook, the Ministry of Information and Communication, the State Bank of Vietnam, the tax department and the Ministry of Public Security to address outstanding issues.

The report said the working group is focusing on three main areas: Content violations, economic development, and tax.