The Vietnamese government has blocked its citizens from accessing Facebook for several weekends in a row and some reports that people are having problems with Instagram which is owned by Facebook.
The social media ban was issued in response to public protests over an environmental disaster that is causing mass fish deaths in aquatic farms and waters off the country’s central provinces. Many of the citizens, who depend on the fishing industry for employment and survival, have taken to Facebook to organize rallies and protests. In an effort to thwart the protestor’s efforts the government has instituted a nationwide ban on social media sites.
The toxic spill was caused by tainted wastewater that was discharged by a local steel company, Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics. The Vietnamese government denies claims that Formosa has committed any wrongdoings in it’s disposal of wastewater. However, the Deputy Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources admits that the fish deaths have been caused by a toxic algae bloom or industrial waste while simultaneously denying Formosa had any involvement in the spill.
The social media ban is part of a two pronged attack on the protestors. The government is silencing its citizens both digitally and physically. Police have arrested approximately 300 protesters in Ho Chi Minh City’s Paris Square and injured many of the detainees in the process. Protestors that were able to organize in spite of the ban on social media were physically removed from the places of protest in Hanoi and Saigon. Images that the government is trying to suppress can be seen below:
— Dan Vineberg (@danvineberg) May 1, 2016
— Anh Chí (@AnhChiVN) May 16, 2016
— Quoc Binh (@quocbinh8x) May 16, 2016
Citizens are fighting back by using proxy servers to bypass the government ban and access the banned sites. A popular Israeli proxy service, Hola, is one of many proxy services that has seen a massive boom in downloads since the ban went into place. They released this official statement regarding the matter on their company blog:
“Though security forces have been preventing protesters from gathering in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, many citizens have been using Facebook to exchange information and organize rallies, thus the government is presumed to have shut the website down,”
Despite the government’s attempt to silence protestors many have used the proxy servers to access sites such as Twitter and Facebook to criticize the government for their attempted censorship:
Sounds like Facebook is blocked in Vietnam as government tried to cut off communication by protestors.
— lemon (@lotusr00t) May 17, 2016
Meanwhile in #Vietnam, Facebook has been blocked to curb protests. They didn’t learn from Arab Spring…
— Raj Taneja (@tinhead) May 15, 2016
Hello world! Anybody there? No #Facebook access now here in Vietnam. Friends in PH, you don't want this to happen to you. No fun!
— Hello Saigon (@lyraliza) May 14, 2016
Despite the public outcry the the fish deaths, which began in April, continue to occur. A governement investigation is underway. The social media ban continued through the weekend but appears to have been lifted.
Do you think a social media blackout could ever occur in the United States? Share your opinion in the comment section!