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.