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Vietnam’s New Media Restrictions Easier To Evade Than China Or Iran’s

August 6, 2013

New media laws in Vietnam that forbid sharing personal information and news on the internet was highlighted in a post on Friday, August 2, by this blog. Concern about deteriorating standards of media freedom in Vietnam – repressive media laws, imprisonment of bloggers and how economic and strategic interests trump human rights and civil liberties in US-Vietnam relations – has formed the subject of former posts. (Posts on July 9 and July 25)
Writing to the Washington Post (August 6), Caitlin Dewey says, “According to analysis from the watchdog group Freedom House, Vietnam isn’t alone in its crackdown, even if its methods are particularly severe. Internet censorship is on the rise worldwide, and restrictive, one-party countries like Vietnam aren’t the only ones legislating what people can post online.”
Freedom House, the New York-based democracy and human rights watchdog publishes Freedom on the Net. Freedom on the Net’s 2013 report is scheduled come out in September. Dewey quotes Sanja Kelley who is project director, Freedom on the Net, saying, “One of our findings for this year will be that Internet censorship is on the rise: more Web sites are being blocked than ever before and an increasing number of countries are passing laws that would restrict certain types of online content.”
But according to Dewey, although the new censorship might be bad news for Vietnamese netizens, laws which prohibit posting and sharing vaguely-defined material as “personal information,” would compel human censors trolling through vast amounts of data and information to catch violations. She says this might be better having in place filters that sift out certain types of information, thereby excluding vast amounts of data automatically.
“Unlike filters, which operate at the service-provider level, and Web site licensing, which targets specific sites, screening for something as vague as “non-personal information” is something of a logistical nightmare and would likely require human censors to comb through social networks. At the very least, it sounds possible to evade.”
This, Dewey believes, is better than China, Iran or Ethiopia that have sophisticated software preventing internet users to evade filters, which these governments use to block sites  considered threatening.
Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.