Facebook in the sights under cyber law

Vietnam has accused Facebook of violating its new cyber security law by allowing posts that criticised and defamed the government.

The government’s direct challenge to Facebook comes just days after Vietnam’s restrictive new internet law came into effect.

State media said that Facebook had allowed posts of “slanderous” content as well as anti-government sentiment and defamation of individuals and organisations.

The Vietnam News Agency said the content seriously violated the new law. It said that Facebook had not removed the posts as required by the legislation and had not replied to requests to do so.

The reports, citing the Ministry of Information and Communications, gave no details of the Facebook posts or how they were considered to be in violation of the law.

Facebook said it had a clear process for governments to report illegal content and each case was assessed according to local law and the company’s own regulations.

Facebook and other social media platforms have yet to open offices in Vietnam and store content locally as required by the new law.

The legislation gives them 12 months to comply.

State media said that Facebook had also refused to provide information on what were described as fraudulent accounts.

Vietnam’s early challenge to Facebook underlines the urgency with which the authorities are trying to silence pro-democracy activists and other civil society groups which have used social media to spread their message.

The new cyber security law is seen as the centrepiece of the Communist party’s counter-offensive against its online critics.

Dozens of independent bloggers were arrested and imprisoned last year on an array of charges, including using propaganda against the state and abusing democratic freedoms.

Analysts say the government appears set on making bloggers and even casual Facebook users even more vulnerable to legal sanction.