Global Network Initiative Concerned by Government of Vietnam’s Proposed Internet Decree

Date: 
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 14:26

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is deeply concerned by the free speech and privacy implications of the Government of Vietnam’s Draft Decree on Internet Services, draft legislation which, if made into law, would oblige Internet companies and other providers of information to Internet users in Vietnam to cooperate with the government in enforcing overbroad provisions that are inconsistent with international human rights standards.

The most recent draft of the Decree on Management, Provision, and Use of Internet Services and Information on the Internet issued by the Government of Vietnam includes several worrisome provisions. Article 5 contains a long list of prohibited acts of expression, including such vague acts as “abusing the provision and use of the internet and information on the web” to “oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” “undermining the grand unity of all people” and “undermining the fine customs and traditions of the nation.” Article 25 requires the filtering of any information on the Internet based on interpretation that such information belongs to the category of “prohibited acts” stated in Article 5. Other provisions of the draft decree create liability or responsibilities for a wide range of intermediaries, including domain name registrars, ISPs, social networks, and even individual blogs that are simply open to comments. 
 
Also highly problematic is Article 24, which applies to foreign providers of information over the Internet. While the applicability of Article 24 is somewhat unclear, it appears to apply to all providers of information whose content is in Vietnamese and reaches Vietnamese territory. Article 24 would ostensibly require such providers to collaborate with the government to eliminate any prohibited information as defined in Article 5. GNI is also worried about provisions in this and other proposed legislation that would impose strict requirements on companies located in Vietnam, including that all servers provisioning IT services be located in Vietnam. For international companies without a presence in Vietnam, Article 24 would encourage them to establish offices or name representatives in the country, making them accountable for implementation of the decree. 
 
The Decree on Internet Services is due to go before the National Assembly in June.  Not only does the decree in its current form contain overly broad provisions that do not accord with international human rights standards, the decree would also have significant economic consequences for Vietnam given that the requirements it would impose would complicate the free flow of information across borders. GNI urges the Government of Vietnam to address both these issues as it finalizes the decree over the next few weeks.
 
GNI is a multi-stakeholder group of companies, civil society organizations (including human rights and press freedom groups), investors and academics, who have created a collaborative approach to protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the ICT sector. GNI provides resources for ICT companies to help them address difficult issues related to freedom of expression and privacy that they may face anywhere in the world. GNI has created a framework of principles and a confidential, collaborative approach to working through challenges of corporate responsibility in the ICT sector.