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Vietnam blocked Facebook during Obama’s visit

Fri 27 May 2016

Vietnam cut connection to social network Facebook during the recent visit of U.S. President Obama, according to digital rights activists.

The group has collected evidence that the website was completely blocked in the Southeast Asian country over the course of the weekend while the U.S. leader was on its soil. This total closure compares to the partial shuttering preferred by the local government, said Access Now.

Earlier this month, Vietnam also pulled down the social media site during wide-spread public protests sparked by an environmental disaster linked to the toxic waste produced by a Taiwanese-owned steel facility.

In Vietnam’s 90 million population, Facebook counts over 30 million members, where it is a popular form of speaking out against human rights issues and rallying support. According to local activists, this latest shut-down during Obama’s trip was intended to quell pro-democracy protests.

“Internet shutdowns must never be allowed to become the new normal,” said Access Now. “Often justified in the name of public safety, shutdowns instead cut off access to vital information, e-financing, and emergency services, plunging whole societies into fear and destabilizing the internet’s power to support small business livelihoods and drive economic development.”

Aside from China’s dominant firewall regime, social network suppression is a familiar theme across Asia. Indonesia was the first country to block Netflix after its global expansion at the beginning of 2016, citing the violent and adult content that the platform hosts.

Malaysia has also gone to great efforts to block online media outlet Medium for publishing an investigative report on corruption claims against its Prime Minister Najib. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission requested that Medium remove the article for being ‘false, unsubstantiated, misleading, and in violation of the written law of Malaysia’, but the site refused claiming that it stood by the report and investigative journalism. Authorities subsequently blocked the website entirely.

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