Over the last few months, Vietnamese authorities have been cracking down on anti-government speech on social media platforms, but the communist country’s Internet users are hardly impressed.
One user noted that Vietnam lacks the logistical and financial capacities to manage a Great Firewall like the one in China. But in Vietnam, China is more dreaded than communism itself, and it is unclear how serious authorities are about an Internet crackdown.
“Even activists in Vietnam struggle to say how many people are actually caught and arrested [for their social media use],” an Amnesty International campaigner said.
Unlike China, in Vietnam, free speech activists are not backing down.
Vietnam does not have the Internet censorship of China or the resources to build its social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking services are very popular in Vietnam, and it is quite common to find political speech on these platforms on a daily basis.
Vietnamese Internet Users Undeterred
However, users wonder if their content is being tracked as they aren’t quite sure what the rules are. Some users think that the authorities are only trying to intimidate them rather than taking direct action like hacks, shutdowns, or arrests.
Nevertheless, vocal users who take things too far were harassed or arrested. No one knows what “too far” means. Most Internet users post controversial messages thinking that they are too little to draw the government’s scrutiny.
In recent months, more and more people have been arrested over free speech issues, but most of them were high-profile dissidents such as bloggers or activists. Still, other arrests likely didn’t make the headlines, so the recent reports about arrests may be just the tip of the iceberg.
Despite the intimidations, in Vietnam, there is the general sentiment that you can criticize anyone you want as long as you aren’t famous for doing it.
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