Vietnam warns foreign companies over dissent

Vietnam is stepping up efforts to control what it sees as subversive material online. Photo courtesy TuoiTre.

Vietnam is putting pressure on companies, including leading international brands,  in an effort to suppress online dissent, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.

The government claimed it had already persuaded Google to remove 16 videos from its video platform, YouTube, according to the report.

YouTube said it would only restrict material considered illegal after a thorough review. It has not confirmed the government’s claim that any videos were taken down.

Vietnam is also attempting to put pressure on major international companies to stop them advertising alongside content that the authorities find offensive or subversive.

Large numbers of videos critical of the government are available in Vietnam, many posted by Vietnamese activists overseas.

Some have attracted advertising from international companies, including Unilever, Samsung and Yamaha, as well as prominent Vietnamese companies.

Reuters reported that large Vietnamese companies, including Vinamilk and Vietnam Airlines, have already suspended ads in response to the government’s demand.

The Vietnamese authorities ban the posting of any material judged to be anti-government or damaging to national security.

They have failed, however, to deter government critics, who use social media to express forthright opinions and to organise opposition to unpopular policies.

Independent bloggers, however, risk arrest, violent attacks by the police and their proxies, and smear campaigns carried out by Communist party supporters.

The government’s attempt to put pressure on foreign companies seems to show its growing confidence, as it shrugs off overseas criticism of its restrictions on free speech and its continuing repression of civil society activists.