Vietnam is now “cracking down” on political factions and dissent on the internet with president Tran Dai Quang leading the censorship battle and pushing for more and more internet control for Vietnam. With more internet control, Tran Dai Quang believes that Vietnam can be a safer both politically and for its citizens. However, is it really a matter of safety, or just another way to gain more internet control to filter free speech and government criticism?
Tran Dai Quang explains the reasoning for more internet censorship in that enemies of the state are using it, and that with the internet, they are “undermining the prestige of the leaders of the party and state, that causes a negative impact on cadres, party members and people.” This very well may be true, but the internet is a tool, just like a piece of paper. In the same way that books are not inherently evil or wrong, neither is the internet just a tool for criminals. Should Quang ban paper, or pens, or any other tool that lets people spread their own ideas? If people are using the internet to criticize the government, then perhaps the government needs to improve.
By tightening internet control, Quang believes that he can protect vietnam from cybersecurity attacks and prevent them in the future. Quang fails to mention that these rules enable Vietnam to keep jailing bloggers who speak their mind. It’s not just terrorist or national threats, but threats to the governmental regime–or, “enemies of the state”– like the recently imprisoned activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh–known online as Mother Mushroom, who criticized the country’s Communist party.
Despite controlling and arresting citizens, and censoring a good amount of content already, Vietnam’s mission to protect its people and networks seem to be a failure so far.
Vietnam ranks 101st out of 19th countries in the Global Security Index of 2017, which makes it the least secure nation in Southeast Asia. According to Microsoft, Vietnam is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to malware.
Just this may, a cybersecurity firm that goes by “FireEye” found that the Vietnamese government has been hiring hackers to power a corporate espionage campaign. It seems that Vietnam is placing more importance on propaganda and hiring hackers to spy on journalists and dissidents than increasing internet security.