Politics 80X: Politics of the Internet

ACCESS

Government Control: The Vietnam Case

Vietnam opened a gateway to the Internet at the end of 1997 or beginning of 1998. It awarded the gateway to the state-owned post office and authorized three other state entities, in addition, to serve as ISPs. By the end of May 1998 there were 4000 internet users in Vietnam, and the post office hoped there would be 15,000 subscribers by the end of 1998. [An estimated 300,000 computers were in use in Vietnam at that time.]

A San Jose Mercury despatch by Kristin Huckshorn [31 May 1998] describes the government's censorship activities:

Regulations require all Internet users to apply for permission to open accounts and prohibit sending or receiving a range of information that includes broadly defined state secrets or attacks on the country, party or cultural values, or that 'propagate(s) reactionary ideas.' Penalties include fines and criminal prosecution. So far, no one has been arrested or fined, the culture minsitry official said.

The so-called firewalls that block specified addresses or sites were put into place before the Internet was launched. In the past month, the post office has accelerated efforts to block more sites but its lack of technological know-how has resulted in several system-wide crashes, said people familiar withi the operation.

The party is most worried about overseas Vietnames like [exiled critic] Chan Tran, said experts familiar with the issue. The party's newspaper, the People, recently said a Voice of America radio report was encouraging online attacks and called the alleged effort a 'black plot.'