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Online censorship in Vietnam: How to browse freely

On the 1st of January 2019, a new censorship law took effect in Vietnam. Up until now, the internet was a relatively free platform in the sometimes restrictive country. The new legislation means that the government can now monitor and punish even more people whose views do not align with theirs.

Online censorship in Vietnam: How to browse freely

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Internet censorship in Vietnam

The Vietnamese government already has many laws that regulate the internet, so critics are comparing this new law to The Great Firewall of China. Sexually explicit, violent and politically sensitive content are all regulated in Vietnam. The law on Information Technology allows the government to punish any domestic or foreign individuals (living or visiting Vietnam) who create any content opposing the state. Such ‘criminals’ can be fined or imprisoned, making online privacy essential if you want to live or travel there.

In 2010, the government also ordered all organizations that offer free Wi-Fi to install tracking software. In 2013, any distribution of materials that would harm national security or oppose the government was also banned. Social media and blogging platforms were the only place left for people to exchange their ‘personal information.’ However, three years later, two major blogging platforms – Blogger and WordPress – were also blocked. Year after year, online censorship in Vietnam is getting worse.

The implications of the new bill

The new law, according to the Vietnamese government, is aimed at increasing cybersecurity and attracting even more investors. However, it will be done in a rather peculiar way. The government will track the content posted on social media (or other platforms) and will ask organizations to remove ‘state-offensive content’ within 24 hours. The government will also ask organizations that have more than 10,000 Vietnamese users to establish local offices in Vietnam and host local servers there.

Carriers keep selling your location

Unlike China, the Vietnamese government doesn’t intend to block any major social media websites. However, tech giants like Facebook and Google still opposed the new law. They are concerned that it will allow the government to more easily access users’ data and arrest local employees. The affected companies will have another 12 months to move their data centers to Vietnam (days after the bill took effect, Vietnam accused Facebook of violating the law and allowing its users to post anti-state messages.)

People living in or visiting the country should be more concerned than ever about their online privacy. If not, they will certainly need to think twice before sharing anything on social media or expressing their opinion about Vietnam online. The country has a track record of bloggers and activists who were sentenced because of their social or political views.

“While it’s likely that activists who have previously spoken up against government abuses will be targeted first, the government’s longer-term plan is to bring the internet under the same draconian controls that affect print media, TV and radio. The government’s new year gift to its citizens is intensified fear about what they can say online and uncertainty about what issues and statements will trigger arrests and prosecution.”

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch Asia.

What to do if you are going to Vietnam

Visiting or living in countries with oppressive regimes can be difficult. Something you would carelessly post in your homeland might result in unexpected punishments in Vietnam. Sometimes you might not be familiar with the laws and you won’t even know what content will be perceived as inappropriate. You should always protect your privacy, which you can easily do by using a VPN.

Installing a VPN is simple. All you need to do is download our VPN app for free and proceed to purchase a subscription that works best for you. Once you launch the app, you’ll be protected with some of the best encryption in the industry.

If you’re a journalist or activist, or someone who desperately needs the service, you can apply for Emergency VPN assistance and protect yourself online. NordVPN receives thousands of Emergency VPN requests every year and helps people from repressive regimes to fight for digital freedoms.

With NordVPN you can:

  • Change your IP address and location. This will prevent online platforms or the Vietnamese government from seeing where you posted the content from. We offer 6395 servers in 111 countries.
  • Take advantage of next-generation encryption that was previously used to secure classified information. This will protect your content from WiFi networks designed to monitor your activities.
  • Be sure that none of your data is monitored, stored or shared with governments and third parties. NordVPN doesn’t track your activity online.
  • Use the Kill switch feature, which means that even if the VPN connection drops, your data won’t be exposed.
  • Be certain that you are protected from DNS leaks, which otherwise can expose your online activity.

The internet was meant to be free

Ensure your online privacy and security in Vietnam