Vietnam has steadily tightened its control of internet content, as well as penalties against dissidents. Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years in jail for “spreading propaganda against the state,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He and five other prisoners received sentences ranging from seven to 12 years for reportedly attempting to overthrow the one-party Communist regime. More than 100 prisoners are reported to be held for their criticisms against the Vietnam government – some for simply posting negative comments on their personal Facebook accounts. Last year, Vietnam implemented a cybersecurity task force, “Force 47,” to monitor internet activity. The force, comprised of approximately 10,000 officials, is tasked with countering “wrongful opinions” about the Vietnam government. Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law follows in the steps of a similar law enacted in China last year. That law imposed new rules on technology companies, requiring local data storage and state-approved virtual private networks (VPN). Industry researcher PwC stated that compliance with the Chinese laws required 25-percent increases in cybersecurity spending, according to The Wall Street Journal. Approximately 53 million Vietnamese citizens are regular users of social media. Any post perceived as anti-state propaganda could alert government authorities. With the power to access consumer data, authorities will be able to track down offenders faster, and imprison many more. The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi called on the Vietnam government to delay a vote on the legislation, saying that the draft contained “serious obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation future, and may not be consistent with Vietnam’s international trade commitments.” Vietnamese officials denied that the law interferes with trade commitments. Although the law will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2019, the country is already seeing repercussions. Hanoi economist and former government advisor Le Dang Doanh told Bloomberg that the law would “deter foreign investors as it will seriously hurt the business environment in Vietnam.” That appeared to be proven true when Vietnam’s VN Index fell 1.8 percent, for the first time in nine trading days. The Vietnam Digital Communications Association projected a 1.7-percent reduction in GDP growth, and a 3.1-percent decrease in foreign investment.
We are disappointed by the passage of Vietnam’s new Cybersecurity Law which further narrows freedom of expression online & imposes burdensome restrictions on US & other foreign firms. We urge #Vietnam to ensure its laws create an open & competitive digital environment. @StateDept— U.S. State Dept | Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor (@StateDRL) June 12, 2018
June 20, 2018