As organizations dedicated to free expression and an open internet, we are concerned that the Government of Vietnam is implementing a new tactic to restrict the ability of activists and dissidents to access Facebook.
According to Vietnamese netizens, the authorities are using so-called “opinion shapers” (du luan vien) to send an onslaught of abuse reports to Facebook, which has then led to the taking down of Facebook pages of well-known Vietnamese activists and human rights organizations. Since the end of June, at least 100 accounts have been known to be suspended.
In a heavily-censored and closed media environment such as Vietnam’s, Facebook has become a vital platform for Vietnamese civil society. Many Vietnamese use Facebook to share information and participate in uncensored debate. Citizen journalists are able to communicate with an audience in the millions. Community groups on Facebook represent a form of freedom of association and freedom of assembly that is not permissible offline in the country.
Over the last several years, the Vietnamese government has tried to curtail online speech through aggressive filtering, malware, and repressive decrees. Since 2009, the government has attempted to restrict Facebook and other social networks.
While authorities have failed so far in stamping out social media, we are deeply concerned by the recent attacks against activists on Facebook. We call on the international community to join us in condemning this latest censorship effort.