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Vietnam tightens noose on web freedoms with new decrees

Fines galore for gaming past curfew and anti-government tweets

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Vietnam has introduced severe financial penalties in its ongoing bid to stifle web freedoms, including a fine of $US5,000 for anyone using social media to spread propaganda against the state.

The ominous-sounding Decree 174 follows up on Decree 72, which came into force in September and limits the use of blogs and social media to “providing or exchanging personal information” as well as banning anti-government content.

Decree 174, which will take effect from January 14th, also takes a hard line on gaming.

It levies a fine of up to $5,000 on kids who play games after curfew, and similar sums for kids who use too much virtual currency, according to Vietnam’s ICT News.

There are also other fines for setting up gaming centres, providing games or advertising games without a license, and for producing games with inappropriate content. E-commerce doesn’t escape either, with Decree 185 issued to fine companies which operate without a license or those which don’t report changes to their sites up to $5,000 if the transgression is deemed deliberate.

Vietnam’s rapidly-developing economy is heavily dependent on ICT and the wonders of the web, but it seems its authoritarian government is determined to regulate, censor and intimidate wherever possible to maintain its grip on power.

It’s no surprise then that the country ranks 172nd out of 179 on Reporters Without Borders' 2013 World Press Freedom rankings, just one place above China.

Freedom House, meanwhile, ranked Vietnam seventh bottom in its Freedom on the Net 2013 report.

Just last month 30-year-old activist Dinh Nhat Uy was sentenced to 15 months under house arrest for “abusing” his freedom of speech by setting up a Facebook group calling for the release of his brother from prison. ®

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