The Vietnamese government has warned to block Facebook in the country if the social media giant refuses to censor more local political content on its platform, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing a senior Facebook official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Over the past few months, we’ve faced additional pressure from the government to restrict more content,” a Facebook spokesperson told KrASIA via email. “We will do everything we can to ensure that our services remain available, so people can continue to express themselves.”
This is not the first time that the government warned the social media giant to increase censorship over “anti-state” content. The country’s state-owned telecom firms knocked Facebook’s servers offline for seven weeks from mid-February this year, slowing the traffic to the platform to a crawl, according to Reuters.
Although Facebook complied with the request in April, a move that Human Rights Watch called “a terrible precedent,” the unidentified official said that the government approached the company again in August asking for further censorship of critical posts.
With around 68 million of Facebook users as of March—accounting for 68.8% of the country’s entire population—Facebook is encountering mounting pressure. Vietnam’s Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung urged the local tech community in a meeting last year to build their own social media network and search engines that could rival Facebook and Google.
“Millions of people in Vietnam use our services every day to connect with family and friends, and thousands of businesses rely on them to connect with customers. We don’t always see eye-to-eye with governments in countries where we operate, including Vietnam,” said Facebook’s spokesperson.
Facebook treads a rocky path in the region when it comes to content censorship. In August, the social network planned to take legal action against the Thai government over a demand to block access to a group it considered defamatory to the country’s monarchy.
“After careful review, Facebook has determined that we are compelled to restrict access to content which the Thai government has deemed to be illegal,” a Facebook spokesperson told KrASIA. “Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves.”