“Walang facebook sa buong Vietnam ate!!!”
That was my sister’s panicked email right after she arrived in Vietnam last Saturday. Her second message contained the explanation, “inaaral pa daw ng authorities dito ang dangers ng social networking sites. Hmph.”
Vietnam is listed as one of the countries in the world that heavily employs Internet censorship. OpenNet Initiative categorizes Vietnam’s level of online censorship to be “pervasive” which means that the filtering being employed is both by depth and breadth. Depth filtering is restricting access to a large portion of a targeted content in a given category while Breadth filtering includes filtering in several categories in a given theme. OpenNet Initiative concludes that aside from the technical blocking of sites, Vietnam’s filtering mechanisms include threats of legal liability, monitoring of users’ online activities, and informal pressures like supervision of computer use in workplaces and cybercafés. While these actions have been justified as means to protect national security and block obscene content, OpenNet Initiative reports that Vietnam actually blocks access to sites which fall within the definition of political opposition. Among these websites are international human rights organizations and those that are critical of the Vietnamese government.
Vietnam ranks as no. 6 in the Reporters without Borders’ list of “internet enemies.” The Committee to Protect Journalists also reports that as of 2009, bloggers in Vietnam continue to face harassment and detention while 300 cybercafés have already been equipped with software tracking visits to banned websites.