US, others criticize new Vietnamese Internet law

A new Vietnamese Internet law that will put curbs on the types of information that can be exchanged on blogs and social media was criticized on Monday by a 21-nation inter-governmental group.

The Freedom Online Coalition said Vietnam’s Decree 72 “risks harming Vietnam’s economy” and “appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Decree 72 is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1. It restricts the use of blogs and social media to the exchange of personal information. Posting of information that “harms national security” or “opposes” the government is banned. Further, it requires Internet companies and providers of information in Vietnam to cooperate with the government on enforcement of the decree.

The law has been widely interpreted as an attempt to silence the use of the Internet by government critics. Already this year, several bloggers have been jailed for postings they made online.

The Freedom Online Coalition, which includes the governments of the U.S., U.K., Germany and France, said it is “deeply concerned” about the plans.

“An open and free Internet is a necessity for a fully functioning modern economy; regulations such as Decree 72 that limit openness and freedom deprive innovators and businesses of the full set of tools required to compete in today’s global economy,” it said in a statement issued by the U.S. Department of State.

The group also noted that resolution 20/8, adopted by consensus by the U.N. Human Rights Council in July 2012, confirms human rights apply both online and offline and, as such, Vietnam could be in violation of its human rights obligations.

The Vietnamese decree has also been criticized by other groups that battle for Internet and press freedom.

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