Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party has jailed a citizen for two and a half years over anti-government comments he posted on Facebook, Reuters news agency reports.
Bui Manh Dong, 40, was convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” according to the government.
Using two Facebook accounts, Bui Manh Dong “distorted the guidelines and policies of the party and the state, and defamed party and state leaders,” so his activities “hurt the prestige and leading role of the party and the state,” Vietnam’s communist government argued in statements.
Vietnam’s Communist Party, Reuters notes, does not tolerate criticism and has a tight grip on social media, despite alleged openness to social change and widespread economic reform.
The government’s decision to jail Bui Manh Dong comes after the jailing of another Vietnamese Facebook user for two years and three months on the same charges.
Vietnamese activists have complained about the Communist government’s crackdown on social media but to no avail. As of January 1, 2019, social media companies will be obliged by law to remove “offending” content within a day of receiving a request from the government. Facebook, for instance, already has a direct channel for communist Vietnam’s information ministry.
In communist Vietnam, where independent media is banned, social media websites are hugely popular among residents and activists. But, that will likely cease being the case since Facebook is coordinating with Vietnam’s communist government, activists have argued.
In April this year, a group of 50 Vietnamese activists and rights organizations wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, according to South China Morning Post.
In the letter, the activists urged Facebook to stop collaborating with the government and potentially aiding the Communist Party in imprisoning dissidents.
“It would appear that after this high-profile agreement to coordinate with a government that is known for suppressing expression online and jailing activists, the problem of account suspension and content takedown has only grown more acute,” said the letter.
Mark Zuckerberg’s company did not deny the allegations. Deaf to activists’ requests, Facebook issued a statement arguing that it is obliged to follow local laws.
For tech companies, collaborating with totalitarian regimes around the world appears to have become common practice. In August, news that Google is developing a censored search engine for China hit the headlines, according to Vox, which prompted more than 1,400 employees to sign a letter demanding more transparency and accountability.
Five Google employees quit in protest, which prompted the company to start – much like Communist governments, a cynic would infer – to crack down on dissent.