Vietnamese lawmakers have approved a new cybersecurity law that human rights activists say will stifle freedom of speech.
The law will require online content providers such as Google and Facebook to remove content deemed offensive by authorities within 24 hours, and store the personal data of its customers on servers based in Vietnam, and to open offices in the Communist-run country.
Clare Agar, Amnesty International’s director of global operations, issued a statement denouncing Tuesday’s passage of the law. Agar said “the online space was a relative refuge” within Vietnam’s “deeply repressive climate” where people could go to share ideas and opinions “with less fear of censure by the authorities.”
The new law now means “there is no safe place left,” Agar said.
The United States and Canada urged Vietnam to delay passage of the bill, citing concerns it could pose “obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation future.”
The Vietnam Digital Communication Association says the law could reduce the country’s gross domestic product by 1.7 percent, and wipe out 3.1 percent of foreign investment.
Vo Trong Viet, the head of the government’s defense and security committee, acknowledged that requiring content providers to open data centers inside Vietnam would increase their costs, but said it was necessary ensure the country’s cybersecurity.