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.

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  • identicon
    Daydream, 3 Jan 2018 @ 9:40pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 1:05am

      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 Minds.com. 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 Gab.ai has absorbed more Twitter outcasts than Minds.com, 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 Minds.com gets or how long it lasts is anyone's guess. Newcomer tsu.co 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.

      https://www.minds.com/discovery/trending/channels

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 1:18am

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

        Well thanks for that racist piece of spam. Now why don’t you toddle back over to stormfront and get back to jacking each other off.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:07am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:31am

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

        Great facebook alternatives there biff.

        Are there any more suggestions for a self denigrating social misfit?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 3:15am

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

      Nowhere near as huge or... as insidiously connected to everything as Facebook, but you can always find a Diaspora pod. Or host one. Some are big on the mass-interconnection with other services bit.

      I don't know if you'd call it analogous to vimeo : youtube or not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 3:18am

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

      but I can't think of anything for Facebook.

      Myspace is still in business.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 3:21am

    SEA is just full of this kind of thing. I guess it's good to be able to get a government public works job...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 5:10am

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:34am

      Re:

      I am not a political expert but I was unaware that China had reverted back to their commie past. Weird, I thought commie economics disallowed the creation of wealth. Why are there so many rich people in china?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2018 @ 1:16am

        Re: Re:

        Like the old USSR, China has never practiced communism, but rather socialism as a step on the road to Communism. Just like the old USSR, those who held the power enjoyed their privileges, and never took the final step to communism.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 5 Jan 2018 @ 5:57am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ahhhh... not true, mate.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_capitalism

          http://alphahistory.com/russianrevolution/bolshev ik-economic-policy/

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 4 Jan 2018 @ 2:48pm

      Re: If communism is so great, why do they have to spend so much time and money convincing people how great it is?

      Isn’t that Hollywood’s job for the USA?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DONT BE STUPID BE EDUCATED, 4 Jan 2018 @ 7:50am

    @david

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:10am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:37am

      Re: @david

      Capitalism is not a form of government, it describes an economic system.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:39am

    I still do not know what this "wrong think" term actually means. Do they have any examples or is it more of a dynamic accusation to prison pipeline?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:52am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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