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Vietnam issues Internet restrictions

Vietnam is the latest country to issue government restrictions of the Internet.

Vietnam has announced new regulations requiring all Internet service providers to register with the government and agree to official inspections, adding Hanoi to the list of regimes that have imposed recent online restrictions over moral and political concerns.

The General Directorate of Posts and Telecommunications will control licenses for the online service providers, which must "absolutely obey the government's decision on mobilizing parts of or the entire network for its own use," according to the preliminary rules, which were issued in May but did not become available until this week. Copies of the new policies were obtained by the Associated Press.

The regulations forbid "data that can affect national security, social order, and safety or information that is not appropriate to the culture, morality, and traditional customs of the Vietnamese people." The directorate reserves the right to define what information falls under those categories.

Directorate officials did not specifically outline penalties in the draft regulations but reportedly maintained the authority to shut down service providers to "prevent sources of bad information from entering Vietnam." The new policies are being drawn even though the country is not connected to the Internet, an indication of the level of Hanoi's concern over the issue.

The move makes Vietnam the latest in a string of countries to impose restrictions on the Internet, many of them in Asia. Such policies have created a dilemma for Vietnam and other Asian nations that are seeking to restrict online content while leveraging Internet-related commerce to further strengthen their expanding economies.

Earlier this year, China began plans to launch a national Internet service provider that would block out pornography and political material deemed unfit for general consumption. Singapore has taken less extreme measures but has decreed that all service providers must register with a government agency--a tactic that critics say creates de facto censorship through a national chilling effect.

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