Vietnam’s National Assembly has voted to pass a new cybersecurity law, which Amnesty International says will have potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression in the country.
According to a statement issued by Amnesty International today, the new law gives broad new powers to the Vietnamese authorities, allowing them to force technology companies to hand over vast amounts of data, including personal information, and to censor users’ posts.
The law gives the government sweeping powers and will help officials to monitor online activity. The Internet was introduced in Vietnam in 1997, and from humble beginnings the number of users soared to 49.7 million in 2013 and then 55.2 million this year, out of a total population of about 95 million.
In 2022, the number is expected to be nearly 60 million. In a country where the press and media are strictly controlled by the government, the Internet has become an important outlet for alternative news and views.
Last year the authorities arrested at least 21 bloggers and other activists who were charged with “national security offenses” and given long prison sentences, some up to 14 years.
The new law will make controls even stricter than they are now. It bans users from organizing, encouraging or training other people for “anti-state purposes.”
Users are not, according to the law, allowed to “distort history, negate the country’s revolutionary achievements, undermine national solidarity, offend religions and discriminate on the basis of gender and race.”
The law also prohibits the spreading of “incorrect information which causes confusion among people, damages socio-economic activities, creates difficulties for authorities and those performing their duty.”
“Private businesses will also be obliged to provide users’ data to the Ministry of Public Security.”