08/02/2013, 00.00
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Hanoi bans news and politics from social media in new web crackdown

The new decree signed by the prime minister will come into effect in September, banning the sharing of news information via social networking sites. Sharing "personal information" will be allowed, but only if it does not touch "sensitive" issues. Internet providers will be required to block posts "against Vietnam" and "national security."

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hanoi continues its crackdown on social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, which have become popular in the Asian country despite official censorship. According to a recent decree, social media can no longer be used to share news stories, only personal information.

For some time, the authorities have arrested people and seized material as part of a campaign against activists and bloggers who use the Internet to express criticism and dissent against the central and local governments. However, in spite of the censorship and dozens of court sentences, an active and vibrant network of millions of blogs continues to grow.

According to the recent measure, internet users cannot use social media "to quote general information [. . .] from newspapers, press agencies or other state-owned websites.

It is not clear how the law will be implemented or what penalties will be imposed, but internet commentators note that the new law could in theory make it illegal not only to share information from dissidents and government critics but also links to stories or pro-Communist articles published online in Vietnam's state-run press.

The measure, which is set to come into force on 1 September, also bans foreign Internet service providers from "providing information that is against Vietnam, undermining national security, social order and national unity. . . or information distorting, slandering and defaming the prestige of organisations, honour and dignity of individuals".

For Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Le Nam Thang, the new rules will help internet users "find correct and clean information on the internet".

Deemed an "enemy of the Internet" in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report, Vietnam does not allow private newspapers and TV broadcasters, only state media. This is why many people prefer to access the web and social media for information.

The new rule has already sparked a wave of fierce protests on the web. One user, Huong Nguyen, wrote that the decree was "evidence that the government doesn't understand the trend of society to become more open."

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