Vietnam is controlling the use of the Internet by encouraging providers and users to spy on each other and turn informant if they suspect politically "subversive" activity, according to a report released yesterday by Amnesty International.
The regime has harassed and imprisoned its citizens for expressing political views online, leading to widespread self censorship among the Vietnamese.
Owners of the country's hugely popular Internet cafes have been described by the organization Reporters Without Borders as "police auxiliaries."
The report comes before a petition calling for an end to Internet repression and signed by 42,000 supporters is presented to the UN's Internet Governance Forum in Athens this week.
Internet service providers in Vietnam are required to inform on Web users; Internet cafe owners are required to inform on customers; and Web users are required to inform on sites that oppose the state. Laws ban Web users from spreading information that causes "harm to national security or social order."
While the Vietnamese government claims that filtering is for the protection of Web users from pornography, a recent OpenNet Initiative study found little filtering of such material. Instead, blocked sites are those referring to known dissidents or mentioning democracy and human rights.
Cong Thanh Do, who uses the Internet to promote democracy in Vietnam, was arrested on Aug. 14, accused of attempting to "implement a terrorist plot to destroy the US General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City."
He spent 38 days in solitary confinement, maintaining a hunger strike for the entire period. US officials said there was no evidence to support the allegation and he was released.