Revealed: Vietnam's 10,000-Strong Internet Monitoring Force, Tasked With Stamping Out 'Wrongful Views'

from the whatever-happened-to-occupying-the-moral-high-ground? dept

Over the years, Techdirt has published quite a few stories about Vietnam‘s moves to stifle dissent online. On Christmas Day, Colonel General Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy chairman of the General Political Department of the People’s Army of Vietnam, revealed that the country had secretly created a massive Internet monitoring unit called “Force 47”:

Nghia said the special force tasked with combating wrongful information and anti-state propaganda is called the Force 47, named after Directive No. 47 that governs its foundation.

The team currently has more than 10,000 members, who are “the core fighters” in cyberspace.

The three-star general underlined that members of this team are “red and competent,” implying that they have both technology expertise and good political ideals in addition to personality.

As Tuoi Tre News reports, Force 47 is tasked with fighting “wrongful views”. Bloomberg points out some recent moves by the Vietnamese authorities to police the online world:

Facebook this year removed 159 accounts at Vietnam’s behest, while YouTube took down 4,500 videos, or 90 percent of what the government requested, according to VietnamNet news, which cited Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan last week. The National Assembly is debating a cybersecurity bill that would require technology companies to store certain data on servers in the country.

The Wall Street Journal notes that heavy sentences have been imposed on people for using the Internet to spread some of those “wrongful views”:

In recent months, the country has increased the penalties for anyone using Facebook as a platform to attack the government. In November, a young blogger was given a seven-year prison sentence for “spreading propaganda against the state,” while a well-known environmentalist, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, was handed a 10-year sentence on the same charges in June.

Vietnam is hardly alone in wanting to censor online content on a massive scale. As well as the obvious example of China, Germany, too, now requires Internet companies to delete “hate speech”. In addition, the UK is threatening to impose tax penalties on companies that don’t take down “extremist” material. In order to meet these global demands for rapid and even pre-emptive removal of material, the leading online companies are taking on thousands of people as in-house censors. Both Google and Facebook have promised to increase their “safety” teams to 20,000 people. Against that background, it’s hard for the West to condemn Vietnam’s latest moves without appearing hypocritical.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “Revealed: Vietnam's 10,000-Strong Internet Monitoring Force, Tasked With Stamping Out 'Wrongful Views'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Daydream says:

If Facebook removes my account, what recourse do I have?

That Wall Street Journal…from what you quoted, it says “Facebook” and “Youtube”. Not “social media websites” and “video streaming sites”.

That makes it sound a lot like they have a monopoly on things. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few alternatives to Youtube; Dailymotion, Vimeo…but I can’t think of anything for Facebook.

Captain Obvious, I know. In any case, if I had an account on Facebook, and it were removed for whatever reason, and I lost my photos, friend connections, audience, et-cetera, what kind of recourse would I have? To seek restoration of my account or restitution for the real damage that removing it causes?

I’m asking because it seems as though by having Facebook/Youtube/etc delete stuff on demand, governments are using these companies as proxies to suppress free speech, without obeying any kind of due process, letting the accused speak in their defence, or seeking to mediate or find some kind of compromise.

And…yeah, I’m too lazy to recap everything. Stuff about information portal, linked to all kinds of other apps, et-cetera. Point is, what would I do if I found my Facebook account was removed and I had to have it back the way it was?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: If Facebook removes my account, what recourse do I have?

“I can think of a few alternatives to Youtube … but I can’t think of anything for Facebook.”

One “FaceBook Alternative” that’s become especially popular with Gamergaters and other anti-feminism-theory dissidents is It seems that most of the top trenders there are popular Youtube commentators that have been kicked off Twitter and/or Facebook for expressing non-politically-correct viewpoints or engaging in spirited debate with people of a protected class.

Though it seems that has absorbed more Twitter outcasts than, the hard-right/white-nationalist leanings of many early Gabbers seems likely to repel moderates — many of which are now finding themselves penalized, suspended and evicted from Twitter in the same way that hard-righters were a year or two ago, as Twitter slowly evolves more and more into some kind of “SJW safe space”.

Like all small sites struggling to compete with giants, how big gets or how long it lasts is anyone’s guess. Newcomer once seemed poised to become a legitimate challenger to Facebook but shut down last year, perhaps in part due to Facebook’s anti-competitive (“anti-spamming”) policy of banning any posts that linked to the site.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: If Facebook removes my account, what recourse do I have?

It seems that most of the top trenders there are popular Youtube commentators that have been kicked off Twitter and/or Facebook for expressing non-politically-correct viewpoints or engaging in spirited debate with people of a protected class.

In other words, they were booted for being shitheads and now they want to play the victim card like they accuse everyone else of doing.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ahhhh… not true, mate.

Communism has been tried, it fell on its rump, and state capitalism was introduced to prop up the economy. Since they’d got rid of all the educated people for ideological reasons (bourgeoisie are the enemy!) the only people available to operate the factories, etc., in many cases were uneducated and didn’t have much of a clue. The practice of promoting ideologically correct people to positions of authority continues to this day. Result: thick people are in charge because they toe the party line.

During the Eighties the Chinese liberalised their economy by allowing a limited amount of private enterprise. Result: the economy as you see it today. China still officially supports communism but in practice the nearest it gets to it is the totalitarianism required to continue any revolution.

Never forget: the endgame of communism is anarchy but the minute you get there you end up having to recreate the state because anarchy doesn’t scale.



one could also write

If capitalism is so great, why do they have to spend so much time and money convincing people how great it is? USA, Britain, and others spend fortunes making sure nobody says anything bad about the government. If capitalism is such a great system then it should be able to stand the criticism.

all one has to say is trump

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: @david

USA, Britain, and others spend fortunes making sure nobody says anything bad about the government.

Everyone from liberal “SJWs” to gun-nut conservatives to White nationalist shitheads has plenty of negtaive shit to say about the US government on virtually any social media network you can think of, so damn, that is some wasteful spending.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The term is lifted from Nineteen Eighty-Four; it refers to any beliefs or opinions that run contrary to a prevailing orthodoxy. In the case of, say, politics, a person who belongs to one party but holds a political belief that goes against the party’s overall orthodoxy—e.g., a pro-choice Republican—could be accused of “wrongthink” by those who support the orthodoxy.

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