Vietnam has in custody its highest recorded number of political prisoners ever, and Facebook and Google are aiding the government’s digital censorship, Amnesty International said in a report this week.
In April, Facebook agreed to “significantly increase” compliance with Vietnam’s censoring requirements after the government threatened to shut it down locally. More than 53 million Vietnamese—about 55 percent of the population—use Facebook, which also serves as a major marketing tool. Vietnam is the two companies’ largest source of revenue in Southeast Asia.
Of the 170 prisoners of conscience behind bars, the government detained 69 for their social media activity, the Amnesty report said. Vietnam has pushed economic reforms and social changes, but the Communist Party continues to crack down on opposition. Vietnamese Information Minister Nguyen Manh Hung told state-owned media that Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, complied with 95 percent and 90 percent of the government’s censorship requests, respectively.
The restrictions have affected activists like Nguyen Van Trang. Facebook notified him in May that one of his posts violated “local legal restrictions.” The platform blocked all of his subsequent posts that mentioned senior members of the Communist Party.
“Today these platforms have become hunting grounds for censors, military cybertroops, and state-sponsored trolls,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for campaigns. “The platforms themselves are not merely letting it happen—they’re increasingly complicit.” —O.O.