UCA News

Vietnam

Vietnamese netizens declare war on Facebook

Rows over both a territorial map and suppression of free speech plague the social media mammoth

ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Vietnamese netizens declare war on Facebook

Vietnamese activist La Viet Dung holds up a phone showing an open letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg in Hanoi on April 10. The letter accused Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg of colluding with communist authorities to scrub out online dissent. (Photo by AFP)

Share this article :
Some social media users in Vietnam have been angered by Facebook's response to a map on its advertising tools showing the controversial Spratly and Paracel islands as part of neighboring China.

However, in a parallel row, there are complaints that Facebook has succumbed to Vietnamese government pressure to block criticism of it.

In relation to the territorial map dispute, on July 3, Vietnamese state-run media reported that Facebook had, following complaints, removed the archipelagoes from Chinese territory.

Facebook was quoted as saying it had been made aware of the issue and corrected the problem caused by the "wrong" use of a map.

However, internet users discovered that Facebook, the American social media giant, had removed the islands from the map of China for people accessing it via internet connections in Vietnam but not for users elsewhere.

Facebooker Khanh Nguyen, who has 86,800 followers, accused Facebook of lying. "For money, you are betraying yourself and your great country," he wrote.

Khanh said Facebook on July 5 removed the islands from maps of both China and Vietnam, something which apparently failed to appease nationalists in both nations.

Around 53 million Vietnamese, or more than half of the Southeast Asian country’s population, use Facebook, according to the state-run Tuoitre newspaper.

Meanwhile, rights advocate Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh said there has been a big online exodus from Facebook to other social media platforms to seek free expression and access to information, including to Minds.com, which is also U.S-based.

The priest, whose Facebook account was closed down in April, expressed concern that Facebook was joining with the Vietnamese government to inhibit citizens' freedom of expression.

He said many Facebook users had been threatened by pro-government activists, including members of so-called "red flag" groups.

Last month, law student Truong Thi Ha accused the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City of failing to protect her from a police beating for protesting against a new cybersecurity law. She said her post was deleted by Facebook administrators without explanation.

Father Thanh, who shifted to minds.com, said the worst aspect was that Facebook had not stood up for users in Vietnam who contributed to its US$17 billion 2017 profit.

The priest directly criticized Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerburg over collaboration with Vietnamese authorities.

Vietnam is the world’s 10th largest purchaser of advertisements on Facebook.

Father Thanh said Vietnamese users planned to protest against Facebook suppression of free speech by periodically going offline.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."