Internet freedom has gone from bad to worse in Vietnam as an online censorship law known as Decree 72 went into effect this month. It bans bloggers and users of social media from quoting, gathering, or summarizing information from press organizations or government websites. While the main justification for the law is to uphold “national security,” Vietnamese authorities also claim that this law is aimed at combating online copyright infringement.
The law is packed with vague language, including bans on “abusing the provision and use of the Internet and information on the web” to “oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” and “undermining the fine customs and traditions of the nation.” It requires filtering of all such offensive content, requires real-name identification for all personal websites and profiles, and creates legal liability for intermediaries such as blogs and ISPs for failing to regulate third-party contributors, triggering grave concerns about the law’s impact on domestic online service providers. In addition, the decree attempts to require all foreign and domestic companies that provide online services to cooperate with the government to take down prohibited content. For international companies without a business presence in Vietnam, the law would “encourage” them to establish offices or representatives in the country in order to hold them accountable for implementation of the decree.