Online battle of Vietnamese specialized forces and public opinion shapers against Vietnam Human right activists

image Vietnam Force 47 posted by RSF in the list of 20 biggest enemies on the Internet, on the occasion of World Anti-Censorship World Day

On the World Day Against Cyber Censorship on March 12, 2020, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published a list of the 20 biggest enemies on the Internet, including the Task Force 47 cyber unit (Force 47) of the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA).

According to RSF, the Force 47 consists of 10,000 soldiers fighting against the voices of democracy and those who are considered government critics.

Force 47 has used digital technologies to threaten, monitor or censor journalists and thus seriously reduce the freedom of information on the Internet.

Answering to RFA on March 13, Dr. Nguyen Quang A, former chairman of Vietnam Informatics Association said:

This is a really unequal struggle, because those who fight for democracy and freedom don’t have the resources that the Force 47 has. Force 47 has tens of thousands of soldiers. They are not only financially supported by the state but also technically, they can say that they have more material resources than the activists.”

Journalist Le Trung Khoa in Germany said:

The fact that the Force 47 seeks to destroy and restrict the freedom of speech and press freedom of Vietnamese people at home and abroad is the most important thing that RSF has paid great attention… Therefore, in the RSF report released in 2020, Force 47 was listed in a group of 20 organizations biggest enemies of the Internet.”

According to him, this is very accurate, and also the information for organizations and countries to assess the badness of Internet freedom at Vietnam.

A conference organized by the Army on training and operational activities of force 47

However, Dr. Nguyen Quang A thinks that truth is the invincible power, so if the fighters know and do not waste their resources in raising the truth and try to avoid spreading untrue information, the activist will win. He further explained:

Because when you give false news, untrue news, untested news, you will lose your credibility, and your power will decrease by a thousand times. So you are no different from the public opinion shapers, because the public opinion shapers are in large number but not much impact, because they do not tell the truth. Actually, although they have a lot of material strength, a lot of money, I think, if the activists know their ways and most importantly specialize in giving the truth, not distorting information, not giving fake news, then that small number of people will fight and will surely win.”

A group of Vietnamese contestants participated in a cyber-attack competition with 18 teams from Japan, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the US in Tokyo on January 31, 2016.

Freedom House on November 5, 2019, also listed Vietnam in a list of countries without Internet freedom.

With the title “Social Crisis” Freedom House said its project of surveying Internet freedom in 65 countries shows that Vietnam is in the group of countries with scores from 0 to 39, which is not free Internet. In the eyes of Freedom House, Vietnam is a one-party country, dominated by a ruling Vietnamese communist party for decades, not to mention the Cyber ​​Security Law which aims to restrict Internet freedom.

Journalist Ngo Nhat Dang said:

I see the real situation like this, when the Cyber t Security law comes into effect, the Internet censorship should have been more and more difficult, but I find it seems easier, the things such as blockage, removal, and reported or Facebook accounts being hacked have been reduced. In my personal opinion, firstly, the state no longer has enough potential to prevent social networks in terms of technology, human resources, financial resources, etc. Secondly, more people from tens of million of Internet users are increasingly speaking up so it is impossible [for the regime] to suffocate as before.”

According to Freedom House, Vietnam has previously said that the Law on Cyber ​​Security does not restrict users’ freedom of online speech, but only to “protect the legitimate rights and interests” of individuals and organizations using cyberspace. However, authorities have increased the number of arrests and jails in recent years targeting people who express dissent on Facebook, the most popular social network in Vietnam.

According to RSF, when the Vietnamese media is obeying the orders of the Communist Party, independent information come from citizen bloggers and journalists who are suffering from harsh forms of terrorism, including violence from plainclothes police.

To justify imprisonment and punishment for long prison sentences, the Party increasingly uses Articles 79, 88 and 258 of the Criminal Code 1999 [or respective Articles 109, 117 and 331 of the Penal Code 2015], under which the activities of democratic voices are considered to overthrow the government, propaganda against the state and abuse of freedom and democracy to threaten the interests of the state.

RSF said that under the leadership of the party led by Nguyen Phu Trong, the level of terrorism against activists has increased sharply in the past two years, with many citizen journalists being jailed or deported in relation to their writing, and activist Le Dinh Luong in Nghe An was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Journalist Le Trung Khoa said:

Regarding Internet freedom, as you all know, Vietnam is a country led by the Communist Party, and monopoly leads to dictatorship. In Vietnam, there are nearly 4 million party members who are arranged by the party to do other jobs that 90 million people have no value to the party. Therefore, in the era of expanded Internet information, Force 47 is quite the core force of the party, looking for ways to combat all the truth information that is flooding into Vietnam. But these people have low education level, so it has caused a lot of trouble too.”

Journalist Le Trung Khoa said that RSF made statistics that Force 47 has reported many activists’ accounts, or made very vulgar comments to threaten activists from further writing. However, he said that in Vietnam, there are tens of millions of accounts and more people dare to speak out the truth. Therefore, Force 47’s harmful affections are decreasing.

The report adds that the Reporters Without Borders RSF statistics show that the Force 47 has reported many fighters’ accounts, or made very vulgar comments … in order for the person struggling to stop writing. However, there are tens of millions of accounts in Vietnam and dare to speak out the truth. Therefore Force 47 cannot compete with the facts of the people of Vietnam and abroad.

Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the VPA’s General Department of Politics, said more than 10,000 people were fighting online called “Force 47” because it was established under the VPA’s Instruction 47.

Speaking at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City on propaganda, Gen. Nghia added that these forces are “both politically determined and specialized,”- loyal to ideals of the Communist Party and have the skills to use high technology to carry out the task, he said that “we spend all time to be ready to proactively fight, struggling with the wrong views.”

Journalist Huynh Ngoc Chenh wrote on his Facebook account that the number of public opinion shapers, is estimated to be up to about 100,000 people.

He cited evidence from press reports from 2013 that the Education and Propaganda Department at the time had about “80,000 public opinion shapers.” Now, that number is supplemented by the Force 47, and it is likely that there is a similar force from the police, but the number of police is unknown.

That force is very large, causing a lot of cost to society. Their products do not bring any benefit to society. Even in cyberspace, they cause very bad harm to society. In fact, the ruling [communist] party now holds the resources, the taxpayer money. So they do everything and spend everything to protect the party. So they use people’s taxes to pay for these 100,000 individuals or more.”

Journalist Vu Huu Su has an article on his personal Facebook with the title: Public opinion shapers, who are they? described somewhat the nature of these public opinion shapers.

Memorial activities near the Ly Thai To monument have been repeatedly halted by public opinion shapers.

Memorial activities near the statue of Ly Thai To monument in Hanoi have been repeatedly stopped by the public opinion shapers

Journalist Vu Huu Su wrote:
An acquaintance of mine, a military officer of a senior rank, said “the public opinion shapers are working for living. They also know what they write is ridiculous, is unethical, is contrary to human morality. But they have to write.”

I was surprised: What comes from the mind of their brain, who catches them.

Oh, so you don’t know what public opinion shapers are? Let me tell you. All are people of the state, that is, civil servants, officials, soldiers, officers in agencies, military units, and party’s organizations. Most are party members. All of them are assigned very specific tasks, each unit has a person in charge of public opinion in their agencies. All public opinion officers across the country are led and managed by a central agency. Each public opinion shaper is not allowed to use his/her real name, and they use fake names to create their accounts on social networks.

Because they are ignorant, but they are very fanatic (even though they have a full degree, they can not refute the fierce, scholarly articles, based on the very real evidence of the brave pen). So all the punblic opinion shapers comment in a very obscene, dirty and ignorant way, just like a bunch of crazy dogs.” The senior officer recounted.

Chenh said that propagandists and public opinion shapers do not have proper arguments, do not offer convincing arguments when exchanging opinions on the posts of bloggers, or activists talk about government policies, activities, or social issues.

Chenh commented that the majority of the public opinion shapers have used “rude language, intimidation, or slander” to crush freedom of speech.

Specifically, I like dozens of messages sent to my mailbox or messenger every night. And in fact, my friends also said that they also received very bad messages. And the articles that curse, insult, personal smear are rife online.”

Journalist Vo Van Tao pointed out that the behavior of propagandists and public opinion shapers is not only “useless” to society but also harmful to the image of the party.

The overwhelming majority of brethren write like that, they are mobilized to do it because they are culturally poor, so they have a very provocative, grumpy, rude style. I think from the perspective of people, people understand that those people are nothing. Standing on the side of the party, the Vietnamese state, is also detrimental to them. Because that number shows a low cultural level. Then the people will think it is the army of the government, of the party, it is only that.

Along with many people expressing their views on social networks, journalists Vo Van Tao and Huynh Ngoc Chenh think that the money could be huge to pay remuneration or salary for hundreds of thousands of public opinion shapers and propagandists. Members should be used more effectively for society, such as investment and schools, teachers or infrastructure.

Hoang Trung from Ha noi – (Translated)