Vietnam withdraws license of news site, issues fine

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Tuoi Tre Online was accused of misquoting President Tran Dai Quang in an article in June that had him endorsing the idea of a law on demonstrations. (Reuters)
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Tuoi Tre Online was accused of misquoting President Tran Dai Quang in an article in June that had him endorsing the idea of a law on demonstrations.
Updated 19 July 2018
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Vietnam withdraws license of news site, issues fine

  • The one-party state controls most media and has jailed activists and bloggers critical of the government, but revoking licenses is rare
  • The website was one of the most widely read in the country, publishing critical content on politics, lifestyle and social issues

HANOI: A popular Vietnamese news website has been suspended and fined about $10,000 after it was accused of publishing false information, as the communist government quashes any perceived criticism.
The one-party state controls most media and has jailed activists and bloggers critical of the government, but revoking licenses is rare.
The Ministry of Information and Communication said in an announcement Monday that the state-owned Tuoi Tre Online misquoted President Tran Dai Quang in an article in June that had him endorsing the idea of a law on demonstrations.
In a separate report last year on highway development, comments posted on the site had also contributed to undermining “national unity,” the announcement said.
The report on the president came days after scores were detained in June, following sometimes violent protests in several cities against planned special economic zones seen as opening the door to land takeovers by China.
An American-Vietnamese citizen arrested during the crackdown is expected to face trial this week.
The demonstrations were not mentioned in the order from the ministry, which said the outlet must pay a fine, surrender its license for three months, publish a correction and issue an apology.
“Tuoi Tre Online must seriously obey this decision,” the ministry said.
The newspaper connected with the site published a note Tuesday in print saying it would comply with the order.
“Tuoi Tre Online will have to say good bye to our readers for three months, starting July 16,” it said.
“During this time, Tuoi Tre Online will proceed with the perfection of its personnel, improving its content so that we can serve readers better when we are back.”
It said several print publications published by the same institution would continue operating normally.
The website was one of the most widely read in the country, publishing critical content on politics, lifestyle and social issues.


Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Google employees demand more oversight of China search engine plan

  • Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability
  • Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is not close to launching a search engine app in China, its chief executive said at a companywide meeting on Thursday, according to a transcript seen by Reuters, as employees of the Alphabet Inc. unit called for more transparency and oversight of the project.
Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told staff that though development is in an early stage, providing more services in the world’s most populous country fits with Google’s global mission.
Hoping to gain approval from the Chinese government to provide a mobile search service, the company plans to block some websites and search terms, Reuters reported this month, citing unnamed sources.
Whether the company could or would launch search in China “is all very unclear,” Pichai said, according to the transcript. “The team has been in an exploration stage for quite a while now, and I think they are exploring many options.”
Disclosure of the secretive effort has disturbed some Google employees and human rights advocacy organizations. They are concerned that by agreeing to censorship demands, Google would validate China’s prohibitions on free expression and violate the “don’t be evil” clause in the company’s code of conduct.
Hundreds of employees have called on the company to provide more “transparency, oversight and accountability,” according to an internal petition seen by Reuters on Thursday.
After a separate petition this year, Google announced it would not renew a project to help the US military develop artificial intelligence technology for drones.
The China petition says employees are concerned the project, code named Dragonfly, “makes clear” that ethics principles Google issued during the drone debate “are not enough.”
“We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building,” states the document seen by Reuters.
The New York Times first reported the petition on Thursday. Google declined to comment.
Company executives have not commented publicly on Dragonfly, and their remarks at the company-wide meeting marked their first about the project since details about it were leaked.
Employees have asked Google to create an ethics review group with rank-and-file workers, appoint ombudspeople to provide independent review and internally publish assessments of projects that raise substantial ethical questions.
Pichai told employees: “We’ll definitely be transparent as we get closer to actually having a plan of record here” on Dragonfly, according to the transcript. He noted the company guards information on some projects where sharing too early can “cause issues.”
Three former employees involved with Google’s past efforts in China told Reuters current leadership may see offering limited search results in China as better than providing no information at all.
The same rationale led Google to enter China in 2006. It left in 2010 over an escalating dispute with regulators that was capped by what security researchers identified as state-sponsored cyberattacks against Google and other large US firms.
The former employees said they doubt the Chinese government will welcome back Google. A Chinese official, who declined to be named, told Reuters this month that it is “very unlikely” Dragonfly would be available this year.