Vietnam approves sweeping cyber security law

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnamese lawmakers yesterday approved a sweeping cyber security law which could compel Facebook and Google to take down critical posts within 24 hours, as space for debate is crushed inside the country.

Activists and dissenters are routinely harassed, jailed or tied up in legal cases in Vietnam, a one-party state which is hyper-sensitive to critical public opinion.

Social media and Internet forums have provided a rare platform to share and debate views against authorities.

But the bill, waved through by an overwhelming majority of MPs in the National Assembly, is poised to end that relative freedom.

The law’s far-reaching provisions mean internet companies will have to remove posts deemed to be a ‘national security’ threat within a day and store personal information and data of their users inside Vietnam.

Members of Vietnam Parliament during a session voting to approve a cyber security law in Hanoi yesterday. – AFP

“Currently, Google and Facebook store personal data of Vietnamese users in Hong Kong and Singapore,” Vo Trong Viet, chairman of National Assembly’s defence and security committee told lawmakers.

“Putting data centres in Vietnam will increase expenses for the service providers… but it is necessary to meet the requirements of the country’s cyber security.”

The new law also outlaws material encouraging public gatherings or that “offends” everything from the national flag to the country’s leaders and “heroes”.

There was no immediate detail of the punishment for breaching the law.