HANOI – Vietnam has threatened to block Facebook in the country if it does not give in to government pressure and censors more political content on its platform, according to a high-ranking company official who spoke to the Reuters news agency. Facebook complied with a government request in April to significantly increase its censorship of “anti-state” posts from local users, but Vietnam again asked the company in August to increase its restrictions on critical posts, the official said. “We reached an agreement in April. Facebook has fulfilled its part of the agreement and we hope that the government of Vietnam will do the same,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. “They have returned to us seeking that we increase the volume of the content that we are restricting in Vietnam. We told them no. That request was accompanied by some threats about what would happen if we don’t, ”he added. The official said the threats included the total shutdown of Facebook in Vietnam, a major market for the social media company where it generates revenue of close to $ 1 billion, according to two sources familiar with the figures. Facebook has faced increasing pressure from governments due to its content policies, including threats of new regulations and fines. But it has avoided a total ban in all but some places where it has never been allowed to operate, such as China. In Vietnam, despite extensive economic reforms and greater openness to social change, the ruling Communist Party retains tight control of the media and tolerates very little opposition. The country is ranked as the fifth least tolerant of press freedom in the world, according to the Reporters Without Borders organization. CPJ demands release of independent journalist in Vietnam With the arrest of Le Huu Minh Tuan, four independent journalists have already been imprisoned in Vietnam since November 2019, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said in a response to questions from Reuters that Facebook should abide by local laws and stop “distributing information that violates traditional Vietnamese customs” and infringes “state interests.” A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that they had received more pressure from Vietnam to censor more content in recent months. In its semi-annual transparency report released on Friday, Facebook said it had restricted access to 834 posts in Vietnam in the first six months of the year, following requests from the Hanoi government to remove “anti-state” content. “Clear accountability” Facebook, which serves some 60 million users in Vietnam as the main platform for e-commerce and expressions of political dissent, is under constant government scrutiny. Reuters exclusively reported in April that Facebook’s local servers in Vietnam were taken offline earlier this year until it complied with the government’s demands. Facebook has faced criticism from human rights groups for easily bowing to government requests for censorship. “However, we will do what we can to ensure that our services remain available so that people can continue to express themselves,” said the company spokesman. The fate of TikTok in the balance as a judge weighs the ban The US Department of Justice. The US alleges that Chinese companies are not just private and are subject to intrusive laws that force them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence agencies. Vietnam has tried to launch its own social networks to compete with Facebook, but none have reached any significant level. popularity. The Facebook official said the company had not seen an exodus of Vietnamese users to local platforms. The official said Facebook has been subjected to “a negative media campaign for 14 months” in the government-controlled Vietnamese media. before reaching the current stalemate. Asked about the threat to shut down Facebook, the right-wing organization Human hos Amnesty International said the fact that it has not been banned even after defying threats from the Vietnamese government shows that the company can do more to resist Hanoi’s demands. “Facebook has a clear responsibility to respect human rights wherever it operates in the world and Vietnam is no exception,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns. “Facebook is prioritizing its profits in Vietnam and failing by respecting human rights ”.
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