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Vietnam's new law tightens control of the internet

Companies will be expected to store user data locally and remove offensive posts from the internet within one day.

Man using a smartphone
Vietnam wants more control of its internet.
Godong/UIG via Getty Image

Vietnam is taking a leaf out of China's book when it comes to regulating the internet.

Legislators in Vietnam have approved a law requiring global tech firms with operations in the country to keep user data there, Reuters reported Tuesday. In addition, social media companies like Facebook will have to remove offending content from their platforms within one day of receiving a request from authorities.

An estimated 55 million people in Vietnam use social media regularly and the country is home to some of Facebook's most active users, ranking at seventh worldwide, according to a 2018 global digital report. Vietnam already has existing laws penalising anyone guilty of "propaganda against the state."

The law is similar to the internet restrictions in China, which is notorious for its tight control over the country's cyberspace. Apple has sparked controversy this year after it built a data centre in China to comply with new laws requiring local data storage. Social media companies, which are typically Chinese as the country bans foreign services such as Facebook and Twitter, have long been required to help keep dissent out of their platforms, with companies practicing self-censorship.

Vietnam's new law is "crucial" in the fight against cybercrime, said Vo Trong Viet, head of the defence and security committee that drafted the law, according to Reuters. He also said it's compliant with international regulations.

There's no timeline given yet as to when the new law will kick in. Still, people are concerned it will stifle free expression in Vietnam.

"This decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression in Vietnam," Clare Algar, Amnesty International's director of global operations said Tuesday in a statement. "With the sweeping powers it grants the government to monitor online activity, this vote means there is now no safe place left in Vietnam for people to speak freely."

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