Vietnam’s law on cybersecurity in 2018, which stirred up social networks and pulled some mass protests, has now mentioned with more detailed under-law regulations and is expected to tighten online activities according to the policy of the Ministry of Information and Communication.
At the questioning session of Government members in the National Assembly on November 9, Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said, a code of conduct on cyberspace will be issued in the year 2020.
Dr. Nguyen Quang A, former director of the self-dissolved IDS Institute for Development Studies, talked with Radio Free Asia on Nov 9 from Hanoi:
“I also don’t understand what the areas of the Code of Conduct would cover because a Code of Conduct has the meaning of recommendations and ethical guidelines. If a certain association, for example, the association of Internet users, they come up with a code like so to recommend the users, it would make sense. But if the Ministry of Information and Communication put it like that, it seems very forced, because it is not a law nor a decree. This ministry may issue only a circular, according to law. Giving such advice is a bit ungainly by a ministry.”
“Concretizing the Cyber Security Law“
The minister of the Ministry of Information and Communication, when responding to the National Assembly on the reasons for delaying promulgation, explained that the Code of Conduct on cyberspace was built since April 2020, but its introduction was delayed due to problems with promulgating authority.
According to Minister Nguyen Manh Hung, in this code of conduct, the Government requires content Internet providers to respect Vietnamese laws and respect human rights, including the rights of children …
What is the purpose of the code while there is the Cybersecurity Law?
Talking with Radio Free Asia on November 9 from Saigon, lawyer Nguyen Van Hau, chairman of the Vietnam Lawyers’ Commercial Arbitration Center, said that the Law on Cyber Security in 2018 has unclear things, for example, the distribution of fake news must be criminally punished. Or for example, regarding Covid-19, state agencies found difficulties in handling someone who put false information on social networks and causes confusion in public opinion. He further explained:
“Code of Conduct is legal provision, because the Cyber Security Law has assigned the government to develop, guide and implement a Code of Conduct, which is like a code of professional ethics. For example, when using cyberspace, it is forbidden to infringe on the legitimate rights and interests of others, users are required not to infringe on someone’s private life, personal secrets or family secrets as well as users are not permitted to insult or defame others. Therefore, there must be a Code of Conduct so that when handling, for example, a civil servant, or handling administrative violations with a citizen, it will more implementable, that it will concretize the Cyber Security Law.“
Vietnam’s Cyber Security Law came into force from January 1, 2019, after being approved by the parliament in June 2018. This law strengthens the government in system surveillance of information and communication systems in Vietnam, blocking and deleting online data content.
Vietnam is among the countries in Southeast Asia that have taken measures to increase Internet control. Policy changes in the field of network governance are introduced by the government for a variety of reasons, including a supposed desire to better protect the country, eliminate cyber security threats from abroad, forcing domestic data storing to drive domestic initiatives …
However, many experts believe that all is the desire for easier Internet censorship from the need for management of the government.
Dr. Nguyen Quang A added:
“I mean there are really two really different things here. One is how to educate people to behave in a civilized way. For example, Internet users have to consider sharing information that they cannot verify, or avoiding making unwarranted comments and confirmations. I think it is the right thing to do and civil society should contribute. As for the issue that the state uses the Law on Cyber Security to suppress and arrest dissidents is completely different. Because the people raise their views independently, but if the regime doesn’t like it, it will deal with using national security as an excuse. And really they want to arrest whoever by using such vague provisions.”
Will the Code of Conduct on Cyberspace make it difficult for people?
Minister of Information and Communication Nguyen Manh Hung, when saying the “Code of Conduct” to be issued in 2020, did not emphasize national security issues as Cyber Security Law. He emphasized that social network users and social network service providers must guide children and adolescents to use social networks safely and healthy.
However, public opinion on social networks is concerned, with increasingly difficult and detailed regulations will cause difficulties for users as well as social network service providers.
Mr. Diep Quang Van, director of an informatics technology company that owns the Vietnam Ta social network, when replying to Radio Free Asia on November 9, 2020 from Vietnam, said his opinion:
“The Code of Conduct was introduced without clear content. In general, that statement is a bit general, I do not know exactly how it will be, I am also waiting, but do not know how to judge? Talking about the binding, there will also be binding in a certain limit.
For example, if users are forced to register many things, of course, it will be limited, the number of participants will be less, there are things that people cannot access, for example … “
Regarding the question “Is the Vietnamese government increasingly controlling the Internet because of concerns about the development of social networks?” A Saigon resident who did not want to name for security reasons, when replying to Radio Free Asia, said she doubted the origin of the misinformation on social networks:
“Basically, Vietnam promotes propaganda but has backfired by the people, so recently, when the bill of Cybersecurity was introduced, there was a lot of opposition. In addition, the government publishes many articles saying people are using social networks to cheat, exaggerate, provide false information like this, and that, but actually now is the 4.0 era, everyone may act as journalists, that’s why social media has grown.”
On June 23, 2020, a human rights NGO called Project 88 (Project 88) released a report stating that the Vietnamese government in 2019 increased the persecution and imprisoned many people just because they expressed their peaceful opinions online on social and economic issues.
The report also stated that in 2019, 41 people in Vietnam were arrested for their peaceful activities. This figure is lower than the 148 arrested in 2018 when there were massive protests in many parts of Vietnam to protest the bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.
Project 88 said among 41 people arrested in 2019, 22 were arrested on allegations related to expression of opinion, 19 were arrested for anti-corruption activities, followed by other charges related to democracy and human rights.
It is noteworthy that among those arrested in 2019, there were also those who do not have a background in social activities or join any organization or party but were merely expressing opinions online. This is a big difference compared to previous years.
The problem of human behavior cannot be formed day by day. It is the result of the educational process from a young age in the family and through the school education environment, in the community, the society in which that person is a part.