Reuters has revealed a rather disturbing Orwellian tale of Communist-ruled Vietnam marching towards a complete censorship of the internet.
Government officials have announced a new, 10,000-strong military cyber warfare unit used to combat 'fake news', amid a much larger crackdown on critics of the state.
The announcement came in a speech on Christmas Day given by Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Nghia, a deputy head of the military’s political department. According to state-run media, Lt Gen Nguyen revealed the 10,000-strong army of state-owned hackers called “Force 47″, will be targeting enemies of the Communist party who “create chaos” online.
Lt Gen Nguyen further said, “in every hour, minute, and second, we must be ready to fight proactively against the wrong views.”
“Force 47” could be compared to the so-called 50-cent army, employed by Communist China, who are paid 50 cents for every website that is censored. Communist-ruled Vietnam has certainly escalated this latest attempt to control the internet, especially the ability to censor political dissidents on social media.
Bloomberg reports, the disclosure of the unit is the government’s effort to put more pressure on YouTube Inc. and Facebook Inc. to remove accounts promoting anti-party views.
Facebook this year removed 159 accounts at Vietnam’s behest, while YouTube took down 4,500 videos, or 90 percent of what the government requested, according to VietnamNet news, which cited Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan last week. The National Assembly is debating a cybersecurity bill that would require technology companies to store certain data on servers in the country.
Vietnam, one of the top countries in the world for Facebook users, has struggled with internet censorship. The country has drafted an “internet security bill asking for local placement of Facebook and Google servers”, said Reuters. Vietnam’s youthful population — more than half are under 35 — heavily rely on social media, rather than traditional forms of media for information, where the government struggles to control the narrative.
Reuters explains through FireEye Inc, that Vietnam has “built up considerable cyber espionage capabilities:”
Cyber security firm FireEye Inc said Vietnam had “built up considerable cyber espionage capabilities in a region with relatively weak defenses”.
Vietnam is certainly not alone. FireEye has observed a proliferation in offensive capabilities … This proliferation has implications for many parties, including governments, journalists, activists and even multinational firms,” a spokesman at FireEye, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.
“Cyber espionage is increasingly attractive to nation states, in part because it can provide access to a significant amount of information with a modest investment, plausible deniability and limited risk,” he added.
For Communist regimes to work, they need complete control of their populations to maintain their grip on power. The latest move by the Vietnam’s government signals the grip of power is cracking.