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US Concerned About Vietnam Censorship Law

Three young Vietnamese girls use a laptop and smart phones to go online at a cafe in Ha Noi, Vietnam, May 14, 2013.
Three young Vietnamese girls use a laptop and smart phones to go online at a cafe in Ha Noi, Vietnam, May 14, 2013.
The United States is criticizing a new decree in Vietnam that would outlaw sharing news stories online.

Decree 72, which goes into effect in September, says blogs and social media should only contain personal details and cannot be used to share information on current events.

The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi on Tuesday said Washington is "deeply concerned" at provisions of the law that could prohibit the sharing of certain information online. It said "fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline."

Rights groups and activists have also slammed the vaguely-worded decree, saying it will be used selectively to silence critics of Vietnam's communist government.

The new law is seen as an expansion of a campaign that has already resulted in the conviction of 46 activists this year under laws that ban "anti-state" activity. Many of those convicted have been bloggers.

Vietnamese have increasingly taken to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to get an unfiltered view of current events in a country where all private media are banned.

The migration away from traditional media has posed a challenge to a government that has long been able to monitor and regulate communications.

It is unclear how or whether the government intends to enforce the Decree 72. Some rights groups say it may be a prelude to Vietnam cutting off access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Many international Internet companies have reacted strongly against the law, saying it will discourage foreign businesses from operating in Vietnam.

A government official recently defended the decree, saying it will help web users "find correct and clean information on the Internet."
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