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Facebook and Google 'complicit' in censorship and repression in Vietnam, Amnesty International says

The report says social media platforms have become "hunting grounds" for state-sponsored trolls and censors.


Facebook and Google are "complicit" in censorship across Vietnam, Amnesty International says.

Angela Lang/CNET

Amnesty International has released a new report condemning tech giants as being complicit in censorship across Vietnam, with "state-sponsored harassment rampant" on YouTube and Facebook, the report said. The two social media platforms are "tools of the Vietnamese authorities' censorship and harassment of its population," according to the human rights organization's 78-page report published Monday.

Amnesty International said the two social media platforms have turned into "hunting grounds for censors, military cyber-troops and state-sponsored trolls." It interviewed dozens of human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, writers and former prisoners of conscience, as well as relying on info from Facebook and Google. 

Online censorship includes geo-blocking content that has been deemed to be critical of the Vietnamese government, Amnesty International said, also claiming that authorities are deploying "sophisticated campaigns on these platforms to harass everyday users into silence and fear."

According to the investigation, there are currently 170 prisoners of conscience being held in Vietnam, with 69 of those arrested due to their activity on social media. That activity included making posts critical of the nation's COVID-19 response, or even sharing information about human rights, Amnesty International said.

"Authorities began focusing on peaceful online expression as an existential threat to the regime," said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International deputy regional director for campaigns. "Instead of seeking to weaponize these platforms, the Vietnamese authorities should stop punishing people simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression."

Google and Facebook should be doing more to push back against censorship and state-sponsored trolls, Amnesty International said, instead of focusing on maintaining revenue in Vietnam by complying with pressure from the Vietnamese government. It comes after Facebook last month revealed a steep rise in agreeing to content restrictions, "including content opposing the Communist Party and the government of Vietnam."

Facebook said it has "faced additional pressure" from the Vietnamese government in recent months on what content should be restricted.

"We don't always see eye to eye with governments on issues like speech and expression, including in Vietnam, but we work hard to defend this right around the world," a Facebook spokesperson told CNET in an emailed statement. "We will do everything we can to ensure that our services remain available so people can continue to express themselves."

Google and the Vietnamese government didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.