Industry warning on new cyber security law

Nguyen Van Hoa is one of dozens of bloggers imprisoned this year for criticising the government online.

Facebook and other technology groups have stepped up their criticism of Vietnam’s new cyber security law, warning it could have damaging consequences for the economy.

They say a provision that companies must store data in country signalled a hostile policy environment for the digital economy and for business in general.

Vietnam’s cyber security law is due to come into effect on January 1, leading to fears of an even tougher crackdown on internet freedoms.

Google, Facebook and other overseas tech companies will be required to open local offices in Vietnam and to store data in the country to allow greater scrutiny by Vietnamese regulators and security officials.

The Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), a regional industry association representing most of the world’s top tech companies, expressed concern in a representation to the minister of public security.

It said the provisions would stifle investment and growth and damage all companies in Vietnam with an online presence.

Google is said by Vietnamese officials to be preparing to open an office in compliance with the new law, but there’s been no confirmation from the company or other tech giants.

The Vietnamese government says it is moving to suppress what it sees as toxic comment on the internet, a term that encompasses any criticism of the Communist party and its policies.

Hanoi says its new law is in line with actions in other countries which are seeking to tame the reach and influence of Facebook and other social media

Human rights groups have expressed concern that the industry will not respond robustly enough to the new restrictions for fear of losing access in a major Asian market.

Vietnam has been attempting to replace the widespread use of Facebook and Google with domestic platforms on a Chinese model but has so far had little success.