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.


Homegrown Saudi show ‘Takki’ now on Netflix

Updated 08 July 2020

Homegrown Saudi show ‘Takki’ now on Netflix

  • Saudi series provides insight into the life of a generation caught between conservatism and modernism

Webedia Arabia Group, a media and technology company developing strategic, insight-driven, culturally led and creative content for Arab consumers, has announced Netflix’s licensing of the popular Saudi drama series “Takki,” which is now available for viewing on the platform.

Produced by UTURN, which is part of Webedia Arabia Group, the series follows the story of a young Saudi film director and reflects the different facets of Saudi society, including the social challenges faced by its youth. The homegrown Saudi series, written and produced by Mohammed (Anggy) Makki, provides insight into the life of a generation caught between conservatism and modernism.

Kaswara Al-Khatib, chairman of the board at Webedia Arabia Group and founder of UTURN, continues to nurture Saudi talent and propel the industry forward by drawing international recognition. The licensing of “Takki” by Netflix reflects the interest for hyper-localized Saudi content.

“In a region that lacks content relevant to Saudi youth, localization was key. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is filled with rising stars and through UTURN, we’ve created talent pools and incubated them. This is our way of helping to reshape the future of content and Saudi digital culture. Webedia Arabia Group is now full of opportunities that are in line with the Saudi Vision 2030, and we are positioned to develop outstanding content reaching worldwide audiences,” he said.

Webedia Arabia Group CEO George Maktabi added: “In a fast-moving world and with our 63 million Arab users, we are constantly combining the right narrative with insightful data, bridging the gap between audiences and broadcasters by engaging viewers in topics they are passionate about and giving them a space to express their creativity.”

As part of the Kingdom’s transformational era in promoting culture and entertainment, UTURN by Webedia Arabia Group continues to foster the talent of Saudi youth with several new projects in the pipeline.

Both seasons of “Takki” are now available on Netflix.