Vietnam passes cybersecurity law despite privacy concerns

An estimated 70 percent of Vietnam’s 93 million people are online and some 53 million people have Facebook accounts. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2018

Vietnam passes cybersecurity law despite privacy concerns

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnamese legislators on Tuesday passed a contentious cybersecurity law, which critics say will hurt the economy and further restrict freedom of expression.
The law requires service providers such as Google and Facebook to store user data in Vietnam, open offices in the country and remove offending contents within 24 hours at the request of the Ministry of Information and Communications and the specialized cybersecurity task-force under the Ministry of Public Security.
Addressing the Communist Party-dominated assembly before the vote, chairman of the Committee on Defense and Security Vo Trong Viet said the law is “extremely necessary to defend the interests of the people and national security.”
Viet said the law doesn’t contradict Vietnam’s commitments to multinational trade treaties such as the World Trade Organization and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but he said there are exceptions on national security grounds.
He said requiring foreign companies to set up data centers in Vietnam may increase their operational costs, but it was necessary for the country’s cybersecurity and will facilitate the companies’ operations and user activities.
“When there are acts of violation of cybersecurity, the coordination in handling the violations will be more effective and more viable,” Viet said, without elaborating.
The United States and Canada have called on Vietnam to delay the passage of legislation.
The US Embassy said last week it found the draft containing “serious obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation future, and may not be consistent with Vietnam’s international trade commitments.”
Amnesty International said the decision has potentially devastating consequences for freedom of expression.
“In the country’s deeply repressive climate, the online space was a relative refuge where people could go to share ideas and opinions with less fear of censure by the authorities,” Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s director of global operations, said in a statement Tuesday.
She said the law grants the government sweeping powers to monitor online activity, which means “there is now no safe place left in Vietnam for people to speak freely.”
“This law can only work if tech companies cooperate with government demands to hand over private data. These companies must not be party to human rights abuses, and we urge them to use the considerable power they have at their disposal to challenge Viet Nam’s government on this regressive legislation,” she said.
The Vietnam Digital Communications Association said the law may reduce the gross domestic product by 1.7 percent and wipe out foreign investment by 3.1 percent.
An estimated 70 percent of Vietnam’s 93 million people are online and some 53 million people have Facebook accounts.
Despite sweeping economic reforms since the mid-1980s that made Vietnam one of fastest growing economies in the region, authorities maintains tight control over almost all aspects of life including the media and religion and tolerate no challenge to the one-party rule.


Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

Updated 12 December 2019

Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

  • The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
  • He said Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it

Twitter Inc. plans to set up an independent research group to create an “open and decentralized” system for social networks, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, which could relieve pressure on the company to appease critics of its content policies but also give rise to a new crop of competitors.
The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, Dorsey said, and would enable individuals to use a variety of services to access the same network, just like they choose different email providers to see the same messages.
Policing speech on social media sites has required hefty investments while still failing to stem criticism from users who find the policies either too aggressive or too lax.
“Centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people,” Dorsey tweeted.
He said the new approach would also allow Twitter to “focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past.”

The idea, as outlined in articles Dorsey shared, is that developers could use their own algorithms to offer like-minded individuals targeted access to the same social media networks.
For instance, an individual could sign up with a provider that would aggressively filter out racist material, or another that would promote conversations over other types of content.
The open standard, however, could upend Twitter’s business model in the process, giving rise to competitor services that offer filters, content suggestions or other tools that prove more popular with consumers.
In an article that Dorsey shared called “Protocols, Not Platforms,” tech news site Techdirt founder Mike Masnick outlined how an open standard could give rise to a “competition for business models” among developers.
Some providers might collect less user data for ads, while others might abandon advertising altogether, instead charging users for access to premium services like filters or data storage, Masnick wrote.
Dorsey said Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will be in charge of hiring a lead for the research team, called BlueSky. Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it, he said.
He went on to suggest that blockchain technology might provide a model for decentralizing content hosting, oversight and even monetization of social media, without elaborating on possible alternatives to Twitter’s ads-driven business.