China and Vietnam agree over internet control
China and Vietnam maybe at odds over claims in the South China Sea, particularly the Paracel and Spratly Islands, but they seem to be agreeing on one thing: taking control of its internet users.
The official Chinese Xinhua News Agency quoted an unnamed cabinet spokesman as saying the government told its citizens to stop spreading "malignant tumors" online or face punishment.
The 209 percent increase in Twitter-like online microblogs has made it increasingly harder for government censors to control online commentators criticising the governments handling of a train crash in July.
Internet users must "abide by the law, show self- discipline and refrain from spreading rumours," the spokesperson for the State Council's State Internet Information Office said, according to Xinhua.
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Vietnam, on the other hand, does not openly try to bar its citizen from access to certain sites wanting to appear to be more open and forward thinking than its neighbour.
However, Vietnam allegedly blocked Facebook in November, the BBC reports access to its Vietnamese language website interrupted and dissidents critical of Vietnam policies have found their websites monitored and blocked.
Hackers "tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam" according to Google in March who also reported on the hacking of Chinese human rights activists email accounts in China in January.
Google no longer censors search engine results in China, which is required in order to operate in China.
Google also warned in June that Vietnam's new laws allows the government to block websites and track activities of internet users.
"This decision is aimed at guaranteeing safety and healthy usage for Internet users at public Internet access points in Hanoi," said ministry representative Nguyen Phuong Nga, who said concerns over free expression are groundless.
In the past Vietnam has promoted internet technology as vital to the country's prosperity with programmes to bring the internet to post offices and community centers. As a result, Internet growth rose to 24 million or about 28 percent of the population allowing users to bypass state controlled media for the first time.
"It's to Vietnam's credit that it has made a lot of progress with electronic media, which lets people access the outside world," said Janice Beanland, a spokesperson for Amnesty International.
"But there are two sides to the coin, and the authorities can't yet seem to accept the freedom of expression that comes with it."
While Vietnam wants to appear to be progressive, the one-party state does not tolerate opposing views. Anti-government sites are blocked, and dissidents regularly report the monitoring of their internet use and the interception of their email.
Blogger Nguyen Hue Chi, one of those whose website was blocked believes "They're acquiring and absorbing into their capabilities very modern stuff", with help from China whose web censorship is referred to as the "Great Firewall of China".
International Business Times (.au) / Blog Of Asia - October 10, 2011