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Internet Access and Openness: Vietnam 2013

June 2014

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Report Note
This report is information compiled from the visit of a technology research delegation to Saigon
and Hanoi in early May 2013. The qualitative, quantitative, and anecdotal information
synthesized here was derived from a variety of sources, methods, and first-hand observations.
While it is expected that the primary audience is technical, the report also provides relevant
information for policymakers, civil society, and international investors. The effort to collect,
distill, and develop this report was supported by Radio Free Asias Open Technology Fund in
collaboration with technologists and researchers.

License
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To
view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to
Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license are administered by Radio Free Asia. Information on how
to request permission may be submitted to otf@rfa.org or by letter to Open Technology Fund, C/O Radio
Free Asia, 2025 M Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036 USA.

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Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Section I: Internet Access Landscape
Dominant Telecom Operators
VNPT
FPT
Viettel
Mobile
Mobile Operators
Coverage
Cost
3G Service and Mobile Devices
SIM and Point of Sale Process
Network Speeds
Mobile Network Security
Wireline
ADSL
Non-ADSL
Section II: Infrastructure Landscape
Backbone
Critical Infrastructure Locations
Major International Gateways
Transit Costs
IXPs and Interconnection
Licensing and Ownership
Section III: Regulatory Landscape
Legal Landscape
The Penal Code
Policy Decisions and Decrees
Infrastructure
Freedom of Speech
Section IV: Internet Freedom
Digital Surveillance
Methods of Surveillance
Cyber Attacks
Prosecution of Human Rights Activists
Censorship Online
Facebook
Over-The-Top Mobile Apps
Observing Network Interference
Technical Summary of Censorship Observations
Blocked Websites of Interest
Censorship is Disruptive to Infrastructure
Tampering with DNS is Bad
Control vs. Growth: The ISP Balancing Act
Similar Techniques in Other Countries

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Circumvention and Anti-Censorship Methods


Section V: Conclusion
Key Findings
Recommendations
Appendix I - Censored Websites
Appendix II - Mobile Shops
Appendix III - VinaPhone Registration Form
Appendix IV - Promotional Materials
Appendix V - Mobile Phone Price List
Appendix VI - Decree 72
Chapter I - General Provisions
Chapter II - Management, Provision and Use of Internet Services, and Internet Resources
Section 1 - Internet Services
Section 2 - Internet Resources
Chapter III - Management, Provision and Use of Online Information
Section 1 - General Provisions
Section 2 - Websites, Social Networks
Section 3 - Provision of Information Content Services in Telecommunications Networks
Chapter IV - Online Games
Chapter V - Protection of Online Information Security and Safety
Chapter VI - Implementation Provisions

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Executive Summary
Over the previous 15 years, Vietnam has successfully struck a path that placed the growth of
the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) industries near the forefront of its
economic priorities. This has resulted in a rapid improvement in ICT infrastructure and
corresponding adoption of services. Vietnam has a reported 131.6 million mobile phone and
almost 4.8 million broadband Internet users.1 While the mobile adoption is, by any account,
impressive for a country of nearly 89 million people, a stark gap exists for those looking for
Internet access.
At present, nearly 40 percent of Vietnamese maintain an individual Internet connection with
only 5 percent using a wireline connection.2 Recent years have seen the creation and growth of
3G networks to an extent where they now lack adequate capacity. However, with an average
household income of approximately $130 per month, the devices necessary for home and/or
mobile data subscriptions remain out of reach for the majority of the population.3
Approximately 70 percent of Vietnamese users have yet to migrate to a smartphone.4
Nonetheless, with rapidly declining costs, these figures have already begun to change.
With more and more citizens moving online, Vietnam has increased its efforts to maintain
control of information access and online speech. Having recently reaffirmed the dominant
political and economic role of the Communist Party, the Vietnamese government has
published an ever-expanding rubric of decrees, directives, and decisions focused on online
information control.5 Chief among them is Decree 72, passed on July 15, 2013, which attempts
to restrict the use of blogs and social media to providing or exchanging personal information.
This prohibits the republication of non personal information including state-sponsored media
content, bans any content opposing the government, and requires foreign Internet companies
to maintain domestic servers (effectively placing them within the jurisdiction of the Vietnam
government).6
Vietnams 2013 White Book on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). See e.g. American
Chamber of Commerce - Vietnam, Vietnam has 131.6 million mobile phones, 4.8 million broadband
internet users, Sept. 22, 2013, available at http://www.amchamvietnam.com/30441872/vietnam-has-1316-million-mobile-phones-4-8-million-broadband-internet-users/ (AmCham White Book)
2
For 2012, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimated the percentage of individuals
using the Internet to be 39.49 percent and fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants to
be 4.90 percent in Vietnam. See International Telecommunications Union, Statistics - Time Series By
Country, 2014, available at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx. See also
AmCham White Book.
3
See e.g. The World Bank, GNI per capita, Atlas method (Current US$), 2014, available at
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD/countries/VN-4E-XN?display=graph.
4
K. Chi, Affordable smart phones will be dominants in the market, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 29, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90244/affordable-smart-phones-will-be-dominantsin-the-market.html.
5
See e.g. Chris Brummitt, Vietnam reaffirms party role in new constitution, Associated Press, Nov. 28,
2013, available at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/vietnam-reaffirms-party-role-new-charter.
1

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Despite the governments multifaceted efforts to restrict online speech, the Vietnamese people
have utilized their creativity to circumvent Internet censorship and access the content they
want online. The governments censorship has backfired and spurred a vast percentage of the
online population to employ a variety of tactics to circumvent blocking. However, in the current
chapter of Vietnams repression of free speech, the broad adoption of mobile phones has
enabled the censors to implement increasingly pervasive surveillance efforts.
Thus, a paradox has emerged. While a Vietnamese citizen has never had easier ways to access
content across the globe, attempts by citizens to discuss or consider a more humane and
democratic society through the free flow of information have been met by harsh crackdowns.
In 2013 alone, more than sixty activists, many of whom were also bloggers, were arrested and
countless more surveilled and harassed.7
By both expanding the economic benefits of Internet access and attempting to limit and
control information publication and access, the Party is increasingly working at countervailing
purposes. Current efforts have led to regulatory uncertainty for the ICT sector and a dangerous
online environment for Vietnamese Internet users.
With the majority of Vietnamese poised to gain connectivity, this report takes a snapshot of
connectivity in Vietnam with a focus on the mobile environment.

See e.g. Phil Muncaster, Vietnam crimps online freedom of speech with Decree 72, The Register,
Sept. 3, 2013, available at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/03/vietnam_censorship_law_decree_72/.
7
See e.g. AFP, Vietnam activisit jailed for Facebook posts, Oct. 29, 2013, available at
http://www.news24.com/World/News/Vietnam-activist-jailed-for-Facebook-posts-20131029.
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Section I: Internet Access Landscape


The Vietnamese government has made Internet access a key policy priority. This has led to
goals being set to increase fiber to the premises such that 25 to 30 percent of the population
will be connected via fiber by 2015, and that 95 percent of the population will have access to a
mobile broadband signal by 2020.8

Dominant Telecom Operators


VNPT, Viettel, and FPT are the largest Internet service providers (ISPs) in Vietnam. All are either
government-owned, government-controlled, or retain close ties to the government such that
the working relationship remains very close, and there is little effective difference between
owned and private. VNPT, FPT, and Viettel have a variety of subsidiaries such as banks,
manufacturing, education, and many others unrelated to ICT. While these enterprises are
massive, and are controlled by and affiliated with the government, they are not monoliths and
coordination internally is loose, with some sections of a given company pursuing ends not
supported by others.

VNPT
With over 60 years in operation, VNPT (formerly Vietnam Datacommunications Company, VDC)
is the oldest operator in the country. It acted as Vietnams government-owned monopoly until
1996, when Saigon Postal and Telecommunications entered the market as a competitor. The
ties between VNPT and the government are so strong that until 1993, VNPT was a part of the
telecommunications regulatorthe regulation and the business of running the infrastructure
and managing subscribers existing under the same roof.9
VNPT is majority owned by the Ministry of Information and Technology, and as with all of the
major players, supports a dizzying conglomerate structure that reaches far beyond ICT, with
over 100 subsidiaries, ranging from banking to education to manufacturing.
Most of the major Internet firsts in Vietnam came via VNPT. The first international gateway,
connecting Vietnamese networks to the global Internet in 1997, was launched and run by
VNPT. Similarly, they were responsible for the launch of ADSL technology in 2003, and for
launching the first 3G technology in 2009.10

Decision No. 1755/QD-TTg ,The Prime Minister of Govenrment, Communist Party of Vietnam, Sept. 9,
2010, available at http://moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=10749.
9
Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, Telecommunications in Vietnam, Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation, May 16, 2011, pp. 5-6, available at
http://mddb.apec.org/Documents/2011/SOM/SYM/11_som_sym1_012.pdf.
10
See About VNPT, VNPT, available at http://www.vnpt.vn/Default.aspx?tabid=212&IntroId=268; About
VNPT > Historic Milestones, VNPT, available at http://www.vnpt.vn/Default.aspx?tabid=212&IntroId=269.
8

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FPT
FPT was founded in 1988, initially as the Corporation for Food Processing Technology, before
becoming the Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technology in 1990, and finally simply
FPT Corporation, in 2008.11 FPT as a whole is a private company, publicly traded on the Ho Chi
Minh Stock Exchange.12 However, FPT telecom, an FPT subsidiary, is partially owned by the
government as a requirement for being granted an infrastructure license.13
FPTs business model goes far beyond providing Internet service. It started in software,
becoming Vietnams first IT firm around the time it changed its name to reflect this new goal.
Its offerings are diverse, from basic telecom offerings to content platforms and other over-thetop services like video games.

Viettel
Viettel is wholly owned by the Ministry of Defence and entered the market in 2004, testing GSM
service. Viettel was able to enter and succeed in large part because of their ties to the Army,
their ability to conscript Army labor to build out their infrastructure, and, when needed, guard
and protect their infrastructure. One account from their deployment in Cambodia reports their
stationing army guards around their cellular towers to protect the investment.14
Apart from mobile infrastructure and access, Viettels parent company, Vietnam Military
Telecommunications, operates a number of unrelated subsidiaries, including real estate
investment, postal services, and even a football training center.15
In addition to Vietnam, Viettel offers service and infrastructure in Cambodia, Haiti, Laos, Peru,
Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Chile, East Timor, and Tanzania.16 Its business model is generally
favorable to locations with strong military rule, where strict militaristic approaches to business
are welcomed. In 2012, Viettel generated a sizable $600 million in revenue attributable to
foreign investment.17 In one conversation, someone familiar with the market noted, Burma
FPT, About Us, 2010, available at
http://www.fpt.com.vn/en/about_us/general_information/history_milestones/.
12
FPT has significant foreign ownership, potentially above 50 percent. See e.g. Mai Nguyen, Vietnam
index rises 1 pct on foreign ownership hike, Reuters, Feb. 24, 2014, available at
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/24/markets-vietnam-stocks-idUSL3N0LT28Y20140224.
13
See Bill Hayton, Vietnam: Rising Dragon, p. 76, Yale University Press: 2010 (Rising Dragon).
14
Source, private conversation.
15
Source, private conversations. See also Viettel Football Training Center supports Hai Duong young
football training, haiduongnews, March 11, 2013, available at
http://www.vietnambreakingnews.com/2013/03/viettel-football-training-center-supports-hai-duong-youngfootball-training/.
16
Viettel Group, Map, 2011, available at http://www.viettel.com.vn/Map.html; Viettel outstrips rival
VNPT in annual earnings, VietNamNet Bridge, Dec. 26, 2012, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/55605/viettel-outstrips-rival-vnpt-in-annual-earnings.html.
17
Van Oanh, Telecom giants fare well, Saigon Times, Dec. 25, 2012, availble at
http://english.thesaigontimes.vn/Home/business/ict/27193/.
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would have been perfect for Viettel under the Junta. Now that things are opening, however,
Viettel probably doesnt have a chance.18
In repeated conversations, Viettels strength as a competitor was respected, but their business
practices were cited as arbitrary and full of Army ego. There were a number of people in
leading industry positions who said they refuse to do business with Viettel because the climate
is so unpredictable, and because it is impossible to draft a stable agreement or contract.

Mobile
Mobile usage in Vietnam has rapidly proliferated in recent years. Official reports place the
number of mobile subscribers at 131.6 million for a country with a population of 89 million.19
Massive oversubscription creates an unclear picture of true adoption level. This is due to users
with multiple accounts, most of which are inactive.20 Nonetheless, mobile phones are by far the
most sought-after electronic device to own.21
Vietnams largest cities are replete with all manner of mobile phone shops, street stalls, and
SIM card stations.22 Smartphone adoption is occurring at a significant pace, leading to a
steady increase in 3G usage. Although a wide range of mobile devices are available, many are
still expensive and out of reach for much of the population.
Mobile voice and data plans, on the other hand, are inexpensive and widely available. The
Vietnamese mobile market is dominated by users with prepaid subscriptions. Vietnam
consistently ranks as having some of the most affordable mobile access of any country.
For those fortunate enough to have 3G access, the mobile providers enable very few of the
available security protections. All of the countrys mobile networks allow for third parties to
easily impersonate or intercept voice and text messages.
A detailed overview of Vietnams mobile environment is provided below.

Source, private conversation.


AmCham White Book. See also International Telecommunications Union, Statistics - Time Series By
Country, Mobile-cellular subscriptions, 2014, available at http://www.itu.int/en/ITUD/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx.
20
See e.g Son Tung, One-third of VNPT mobile subscribers inactive, VietNamNet Bridge, March 12,
2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90578/one-third-of-vnpt-mobile-subscribersinactive.html.
21
See e.g. Dunglt, Vietnam Mobile Market Analysis 2012, Slideshare, Dec. 19, 2012, Slide 45, available
at http://www.slideshare.net/Dunglt/vietnam-mobile-market-analysis-2012.
22
You can see get a sense of this mobile environment in Appendix II.
18
19

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Mobile Operators
Vietnams mobile landscape is dominated by three providers: Viettel, MobiFone, and
VinaPhone. These three companies hold more than 80 percent of 2G subscribers, with Viettel
alone holding more than 40 percent. In terms of 3G, 98 percent of 3G subscribers rely on these
three operators.23
VNPT owns both MobiFone and VinaPhone. In 2012, VNPT began exploring a restructuring of
the mobile operators as a result of government legislation preventing a telecom provider from
owning more than 20 percent of a rival.24 VNPT proposed coming into compliance by merging
VinaPhone's and MobiFones business operations.25 The Ministry of Information and
Communication ultimately rejected the structural merger, citing the governments 2020
telecommunication plan, which set a goal of having three to four major distinct operators. The
Ministry requested that VNPT submit another restructuring plan.26 VNPT subsequently
proposed to spin off MobiFone into a separate company. This plan was accepted by the
Ministry and was recently completed.27 The government now intends to take MobiFone public
this year while retaining a 75 percent stake in the company.28
Viettel quickly built out infrastructure and began competing with VNPTs 3G offerings in 2010.29
As noted below, they acquired EVN Telecom and reportedly hold more than half of the
countrys total 3G frequency resources.30 In many rural locations, Viettel is the only available
operator.
White Book on Vietnam ICT 2013, Bao Moi, Oct. 20, 2013, available at http://www.baomoi.com/SachTrang-ve-CNTT-va-Truyen-thong-Viet-Nam-2013/76/12213852.epi.
24
See also Section III: Infrastructure.
25
Dylan Bushell-Embling, VinaPhone, MobiFone to merge, Telecomasia.net, June 18, 2012, available
at http://www.telecomasia.net/content/vinaphone-mobifone-merge.
26
Ministry rejects proposal to merge VinaPhone,MobiFone, VietNamNet Bridge, April 17, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/71599/ministry-rejects-proposal-to-mergevinaphonemobifone.html.
27
Dylan Bushell-Embling, VNPT to restructure this month, telecomasia.net, Sept. 19, 2013, available at
http://www.telecomasia.net/content/vnpt-restructure-month; MobiFone equitization plan moves on,
VietNamNet Bridge, Oct. 4, 2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/scienceit/85947/mobifone-equitization-plan-moves-on.html; Nhan Dan, MobiFone detaches from VNPT,
VietNamNet Bridge, April 3, 2014, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/scienceit/98958/mobifone-detaches-from-vnpt.html.
28
Nguyen Pham Muoi, Vietnam Aims to Take No. 2 Mobile Carrier MobiFone Public This Year, April 8,
2013, available at
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304819004579488530185386414; Vietnam to
approve IPO plans for MobiFone mobile telecom operators in 2014 - govt, Reuters, June 12, 2014,
available at http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/06/12/vietnam-mobiphone-ipo-idINL4N0OT0PL20140612;
Vietnam regulator confirms PM backing for market restructure, TeleGeography, June 20, 2014,
available at http://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2014/06/20/vietnam-regulatorconfirms-pm-backing-for-market-restructure/.
29
Viettel third to launch 3G, TeleGeography , March 26, 2010, available at
http://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2010/03/26/viettel-third-to-launch-3g/.
23

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Vietnam has a number of smaller operators who face a difficult environment due to the
established incumbents, direct government connections and considerable market power. In the
mobile sector, Vietnamobile (VNM), GMobile, and S-Fone represent less than 20 percent of the
mobile market share and less than 3 percent in 3G.31 All of these firms appear to face an uphill
battle in improving their market position.
The Ministry of Information and Communication found the Vietnam mobile telecom market has
witnessed the failure of small providers in 2012.32 This was best highlighted with the drastic
increase in infrastructure leasing rates.
Beginning in early 2012, both Viettel and VNPT reportedly increased their circuit leasing
charges by more than 200 percent on the three smaller mobile operators.33 The largest of these
operators, VNM, has also claimed these excessive fees extend to other areas, such as base
station access and pole attachments, that have had the effect of deterring additional
telecommunication infrastructure.34
Vietnamobile began as HT Mobile, a subsidiary of Hanoi Telecom, launching a CDMA service in
2007. As the market became dominated by GSM technology, HT Mobile received government
approval to transition to GSM. As the new network launched, HT Mobile rebranded as
Vietnamobile. More recently, VNM appealed to the government to help smaller players in the
market who were increasingly on the brink of bankruptcy.35 The company also requested
additional spectrum for the government to expand 3G services.36 The government has
subsequently allowed 2G spectrum to be repurposed for 3G.37 VNM has seen their market
share decline but remains the largest smaller player with about 11 percent market share.38
EVN Telecom, Viettel to merge, Vietnam News, Dec. 10, 2011, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/Economy/218525/evn-telecom-viettel-to-merge.html.
31
White Book on Vietnam ICT 2013, Bao Moi, Oct. 20, 2013, available at http://www.baomoi.com/SachTrang-ve-CNTT-va-Truyen-thong-Viet-Nam-2013/76/12213852.epi.
32
Ministry of Information and Communications, Telecom market: Which opportunities for small players?,
Jan. 25, 2013, available at
http://english.mic.gov.vn/tintucsukien/Trang/TelecommarketWhichopportunitiessmallplayers.aspx.
33
Huyen Anh, Telco line fees short circuit, Vietnam Investment Review, July 19, 2012, available at
http://vir.com.vn/news/business/corporate/telco-line-fees-short-circuit.html.
34
Dylan Bushell, Vietnamobile seeks government help, Telecomasia.net, June 26, 2012, available at
http://www.telecomasia.net/content/vietnamobile-seeks-government-help.
35
VNS, Vietnamobile begs for bailout, Vietnam News, June 23, 2012, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/226512/vietnamobile-begs-for-bailout.html.
36
VNS, Struggling Hanoi Telecom seeks bandwidth for 3G, VietNamNet Bridge, Oct. 9, 2013, available
at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/86344/struggling-hanoi-telecom-seeks-bandwidth-for3g.htm.
37
Mai Chai, Vietnam considers reusing 2G to upgrade 3G services, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 10, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/88642/vietnam-considers-reusing-2g-to-upgrade3g-services.html.
38
White Book on Vietnam ICT 2013, Bao Moi, Oct. 20, 2013, available at http://www.baomoi.com/SachTrang-ve-CNTT-va-Truyen-thong-Viet-Nam-2013/76/12213852.epi.
30

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GMobile began as Beeline. The Beeline brand comes from VimpelCom, Russias second
largest telecom operator. In 2009, VimpelCom partnered with G-Tel Telecommunications, an
entity owned by the Ministry of Public Security, to create a Beeline brand in Vietnam. FPT
works with G-Tel to build out leased networks in the northern and central parts of the country.39
In 2012, VimpelCom announced plans to divest its minority stake in Beeline for $45 million,
despite having made investments of nearly $500 million.40 This comes after a loss of nearly 70
percent of subscribers since 2010. G-Tel Telecommunications subsequently rebranded the
network GMobile and became wholly owned by the Ministry of Public Security.41 GMobile
subsequently announced plans to share infrastructure and roaming services in cooperation
with VNPT.42
The S-Fone network was formed by South Korea's SK Telecom and Saigon Postel in 2001 but
SK Telecom divested from the joint venture in 2010. Subscribership suffered as a result of
utilizing CDMA technology, along with failing to pay employees and ultimately laying off most
of its workforce. Saigon Postel sought new foreign investors but was unable to make any
agreements.43 Press speculation suggested a bankruptcy was imminent, but by April 2013
SaigonTel became the largest shareholder in Saigon Postel.44 In early 2014, the MIC announced
plans to revoke their spectrum license due to a lack of use.45
In December 2011, EVN-Telecom announced it was being merged into Viettel. EVN-Telecom
was originally owned and self financed by the Vietnam Electricity Group. It took on massive
debt as result of connection fees and spectrum leasing charges. Vietnamobile opposed the
merger on grounds it would hurt competitors and only increase Viettels leading market
position in spectrum holdings. They unsuccessfully requested that they be allowed to acquire
EVN-Telecom instead.46 Despite the acquisition, its unclear whether Viettel can utilize EVNTelecoms spectrum holdings.47
FPT, FPT IS TES, available at http://www.fis.com.vn/en/cong-ty-thanh-vien/fpt-tes.
Ministry of Information and Communications, Telecom market: Which opportunities for small players?,
Jan. 25, 2013, available at
http://english.mic.gov.vn/tintucsukien/Trang/TelecommarketWhichopportunitiessmallplayers.aspx.
41
See e.g. Gtel Corporation, Overview, available at http://gtel.com.vn/enUS/overviewgtel/13/24/Default.aspx.
42
Huu Tuan, Telco Merger rumours slapped down, Vietnam Breaking News, March 4, 2013, available at
http://vietnambreakingnews.com/2013/03/teco-merger-rumours-slapped-down/.
43
Vietnamese Operator Seeking Outside Investor, Cellular News, Nov. 22, 2010, available at
http://www.cellular-news.com/story/46562.php.
44
Buu Dien, Some telcos would go bankrupt in 2-3 months, VietNamNet Bridge, Dec. 14, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/54732/some-telcos-would-go-bankrupt-in-2-3months.html; VNS, SaigonTel to buy 30% Saigon Postel stake, Vietnam News, April 26, 2011, available
at http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/210711/saigontel-to-buy-30-saigon-postel-stake.html.
45
VNS, Bandwidth revoked from telcos, VietNamNet Bridge, March 15, 2014, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/97547/bandwidth-revoked-from-telcos.html.
46
VNS, EVN Telecom, Viettel to merge, Vietnam News, Dec. 10, 2011, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/Economy/218525/evn-telecom-viettel-to-merge.html.
39
40

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Coverage
Mobile coverage in Vietnam is ubiquitous. 48 Extensive 2G network deployment has resulted in
considerable 3G coverage.49 Below is the mobile network coverage for two of Vietnams
dominant operators. You can see Viettels 2G (purple) and 3G (yellow) network coverage
below.50

VNS, Bandwidth revoked from telcos, VietNamNet Bridge, March 15, 2014, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/97547/bandwidth-revoked-from-telcos.html.
48
See e.g. VinaPhone extends its mobile coverage, Vietnam News , May 4, 2010, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/199206/vinaphone-extends-its-mobile-coverage-.html.
49
See e.g. Calum Dewar, 3G Growth stalls in Vietnam, Wireless Intelligence, April 2012, available at
https://gsmaintelligence.com/analysis/2012/04/3g-growth-stalls-in-vietnam/331/; Vietnam truly a paradise
to 3G users, Vietmaz, Jan. 29, 2013, available at http://www.vietmaz.com/2013/01/vietnam-truly-aparadise-to-3g-users/.
50
GSMA Mobile for Development, Network Coverage, 2013, available at
https://mobiledevelopmentintelligence.com/network_coverage.
47

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You can see VinaPhone's 2G (pink) and 3G coverage (yellow) below. 51

Cost
The price of mobile service in Vietnam is inexpensive and generally focused on the prepaid
market.52 Around 90 percent of Vietnamese mobile users utilize prepaid options.53 As a result,
GSMA Mobile for Development, Network Coverage, 2013, available at
https://mobiledevelopmentintelligence.com/network_coverage.
52
In a 2010 report, VNPT noted that monthly average revenue per user went down to under 5 USD. See
The Vietnam Posts & Telecommunications Group (VNPT), Vietnam Telecommunications Report, May
2011, p. 6, available at http://www.vnpt.vn/portals/0/users/host/052011/05/ebcvt_web.pdf (VNPT
Report). See also VNS, Mobile providers cut prices, Vietnam News, June 30, 2009, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/business-beat/189477/mobile-providers-cut-prices.html.
53
See e.g. U.S. Commercial Service - Vietnam, Vietnam Market for Telecommunications Equipment and
Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, June 2013, p. 4, available at
http://export.gov/vietnam/build/groups/public/@eg_vn/documents/webcontent/eg_vn_063186.pdf; GSMA
Mobile for Development Intelligence, Connections, prepaid (%), 2012, available at
https://mobiledevelopmentintelligence.com/statistics/75-connections-prepaid; Cormac Callanan and Hein
Dries-Ziekenheinse, Safety on the Line: Exposing the myth of mobile communication security,
51

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SIM cards are routinely swapped out in order to refresh service. The amount of service
purchased, for both feature phone and smartphone users, is generally expressed in the actual
cost itself rather than in voice or data capacity. For instance, numerous vendors offer X VND
worth of data. Combined with ubiquitous promotional offers, we found subscribers can
purchase 100,000 VND ($4.75) of data for 65,000 ($3.09).54
In general, SIMs are purchased from street vendors or small shops. Nevertheless, we found
they are available in a wide variety of locations including laundromats, clothing vendors, and
any manner of roadside stands.
Rarely are capacity amounts the metric relied on by end users. This could be, at least in part,
due to the fact that information on capacity amounts does not appear to be volunteered to
consumers. In general, the more official mobile shops, such as those wholly branded by a
mobile operator, offer more information on capacity and speed limitations. For instance, a
Vietnamobile store in Saigon offered 5 GB of 3G data for 65,000 VND ($3.09). A more detailed
(and more official) price sheet can be found in Appendix IV.
With increasingly capable and affordable 3G devices (discussed further below) and the
associated growth in customer base, operators are seeing a dramatic rise in usage.55 One large
Vietnamese mobile operator stated that that overall 3G usage had increased more than 300
percent in 2013.56 Furthermore, traditional voice and SMS usage is declining due to all manner
of data-only options.57 Accordingly, operators are increasingly looking to raise or offset the cost
of 3G service.58 VinaPhone stated that as much as 70 percent of customers use up their data
allowance and pay for more data at higher prices.59
As a result of these developments, rate hikes occurred for the largest mobile operators 3G
service. This comes despite average household income of approximately $130 per month.60 In
FreedomHouse, July 2012, p. 149, available at http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/Safety
%20on%20the%20Line.pdf.
54
All currency conversions herein were made on May 2, 2014.
55
Some of this growth can likely be attributed to price reductions of the major carriers in 2010. See e.g.
VNPT Report, p. 6.
56
Buu Dien, Vietnams 3G service fee 40 times cheaper than in Europe, VietNamNet Bridge, May 9,
2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/73502/vietnam-s-3g-service-fee-40-timescheaper-than-in-europe.html.
57
Anh Min Do, Fearing Chat Apps, Vietnams Telcos Hike Prices, TechinAsia, April 3, 2013, available at
http://www.techinasia.com/fearing-chat-apps-vietnams-telcos-hike-prices/.
58
See e.g. Zafar Anjum, Vietnam steps into an era of mobile data explosion: Opera, TechAdvisor, Nov.
19, 2013, available at http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/mobile-phone/3490050/vietnam-steps-into-anera-of-mobile-data-explosion-opera/.
59
Changes in 3G prices: The reasons behind, Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group, May 22,
2013, available at http://www.vnpt.vn/en/News/NewsEvents/View/tabid/219/newsid/20591/seo/Changesin-3G-prices-The-reasons-behind/Default.aspx.
60
See e.g. The World Bank, GNI per capita, Atlas method (Current US$), 2014, available at
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD/countries/VN-4E-XN?display=graph.

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April 2013, two of the largest mobile operators increased 3G rates by well over 100 percent.61 A
subsequent increase in October, which came with government approval, was between 20 and
40 percent. The increases were once again the same for all operators involved with a meager
20 percent increase (to 600 MB) in the monthly data capacity associated with the service.62
Beyond increases in data usage and the need for upgrades, operator justification for these
increases also cited claims of declining revenue due to over-the-top services like VoIP and
messaging apps.63
With consumers facing a worsening 3G experience, many users are unconvinced of the need
for these substantial price increases. This is due even more so to carriers complaints about
increased Wi-Fi usage, which helps limit mobile data needs.64 With a variety of businesses
relying on mobile connectivity, opposition extended beyond just individual customers to
include transportation industries.65 This widespread discontent likely led the government to
order a probe investigating whether collusion was involved in the simultaneous rate hike.66 With
the companies cleared in the investigation, the increases appear permanent.67
Even with the increases, Vietnam still boasts some of the cheapest mobile wireless service of
anywhere in the world. For instance, the increase reportedly changes the price for 600 MB of
3G service from $2.38 to $3.33.68 In an international context, Vietnam has been listed within
the top five countries for the price of a variety of mobile services.69 For instance, prior to the
rate hike, the International Telecommunications Union found Vietnam to offer the second
Anh Quan, Cc Mobile Internet rc rch tng, VNExpress, April 1, 2013, available at
http://kinhdoanh.vnexpress.net/tin-tuc/vi-mo/cuoc-mobile-internet-ruc-rich-tang-2727334.html; Anh Min
Do, Fearing Chat Apps, Vietnams Telcos Hike Prices, TechinAsia, April 3, 2013, available at
http://www.techinasia.com/fearing-chat-apps-vietnams-telcos-hike-prices/. See also VNS, Mobile firms
hike cost of 3G Internet, Vietnam News, April 6, 2013, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/237855/mobile-firms-hike-cost-of-3g-internet.html.
62
Id.
63
VNS Carriers receive 3G rate hike approval, VietNamNet Bridge Oct. 15, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/86817/carriers-receive-3g-rate-hike-approval.html; VNA,
Mobile users resent huge 3G fee hike, Saigon Giai Phong, Oct. 21, 2013, available at
http://www.saigon-gpdaily.com.vn/Business/2013/10/106638/. Only the smallest operator, Vietnamobile,
did not increase 3G costs. See VNS, Vietnamobile keeps 3G rates low, VietNamNet Bridge, Oct. 23,
2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/87333/vietnamobile-keeps-3g-rateslow.html.
64
Mai Chinh, Free wi-fi cause headaches to mobile network operators, VietNamNet Bridge, Oct. 7,
2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/86163/-free-wi-ficause-headaches-tomobile-network-operators.html.
65
VNS, Transport firms opposed to 3G price increase, Vietnam News, Oct. 25, 2013, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/society/246723/transport-firms-opposed-to-3g-price-increase.html.
66
SGT Government orders probe into 3G fee hike, VietNamNet Bridge, Oct. 29, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/87802/government-orders-probe-into-3g-fee-hike.html.
67
Vietnamese operators cleared of allegations on tariff hike, Telecompaper, Jan. 6, 2014, available at
http://www.telecompaper.com/news/vietnamese-operators-cleared-of-allegations-on-tariff-hike988458.
68
See VNS, The top 10 ICT sector developments of 2013, VietNamNet Bridge, Jan. 1, 2014, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/92786/the-top-10-ict-sector-developments-of-2013.html.
61

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lowest price in the world for 500 MB of prepaid mobile data.70 MobiFone stated that the 3G
service fee in Vietnam is cheaper by 40 times than in Europe and 10 times than in China.71
Even so, some users believe that low price doesnt account for the speed (or lack thereof) of
the 3G service.72
Another significant factor in the cost of mobile service is the phone number chosen. These
dramatic variations are a result of consumers desiring numbers related to the Vietnamese
zodiac calendar.73 On one list, shown below, prices can start as low as 200 VND ($.01) but
quickly rise:

See International Telecommunications Union, Measuring the Information Society, Oct. 7, 2013, Section
3.3, available at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/publications/mis2013.aspx. See also Cormac
Callanan and Hein Dries-Ziekenheinse, Safety on the Line: Exposing the myth of mobile communication
security, FreedomHouse, July 2012, p. 149, available at
http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/Safety%20on%20the%20Line.pdf.
70
Id. ITU, p. 100.
71
Buu Dien, Vietnams 3G service fee 40 times cheaper than in Europe, VietNamNet Bridge, May 9,
2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/73502/vietnam-s-3g-service-fee-40-timescheaper-than-in-europe.html.
72
See e.g. ANTD, The paradox in the 3G market, VietNamNet Bridge, Sept. 17, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/84595/the-paradox-in-the-3g-market.html; Quang ThuanTruong Son, Vietnam 3G customers beef about lower quality despite price hike, Thanh Nien News, April
10, 2014, available at http://www.thanhniennews.com/business/vietnam-3g-customers-beef-about-lowerquality-despite-price-hike-25137.html.
73
See e.g. Marianne Brown, Lucky numbers part of Vietnamese life, Vietnam News, Aug. 16, 2009,
available at http://vietnamnews.vn/talk-around-town/191012/lucky-numbers-part-of-vietnamese-life.html.
69

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While prices can vary greatly and are on the rise, particularly for the dominant operators,
mobile subscription costs are low in comparison to much of the rest of the world and have had
a significant impact in driving rampant mobile adoption.

3G Service and Mobile Devices


While it is relatively easy to discover the devices available in Vietnam, it is much more difficult
to determine those that are the most widely adopted. Vietnamese users began having access
to multiple 3G providers service and the associated bandwidth improvements in early 2010.74
While the network upgrades brought a variety of new devices to market, Nokia continued to
maintain its dominant market position, holding approximately two thirds of the overall market,
with Samsung a distant second at the end of 2010.75 This can be attributed in part to the high
Joss Gillett, Vietnam make s solid start in 3G, GSMA Intelligence, November 2010, available at
https://gsmaintelligence.com/analysis/2010/11/vietnam-makes-solid-start-in-3g/232/.
75
Vietnam Mobile Advertising Market Grows 121% in 2011 as Mobile Becomes Top Channel for Media,
InMobi, April 25, 2012, available at http://www.inmobi.com/press-releases/2012/04/26/vietnam-mobile74

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cost of smartphones and greater costs for 3G service. Nevertheless, by late 2010, 3G made up
approximately 15 percent of the total mobile connections (both smartphone and feature
phone).76
By 2011, 3G service was well established, thanks in part to a reported $2 billion in government
expenditures, and smartphones began to proliferate.77 A key reason was the limited increase in
cost for 3G service over 2G, albeit with low usage caps, pre-paid dominance, and questionable
performance.78 Despite rising inflation and muted consumer spending, smartphone sales
continued to increase.79 Samsung, and to a lesser extent HTC, benefited from increasing
adoption of Android devices and became the smartphone leader in this burgeoning market by
late 2011. Despite Nokias continued success with low-cost phones, these efforts did not
translate to the same level of success in the smartphone market.80
Even with the effects of inflation becoming more prevalent in 2012, smartphone adoption
continued to grow.81 Android gained clear dominance accounting for nearly 80 percent of
advertising-market-grows-121-in-2011-as-mobile-becomes-top-channel-for-media-inmobi/. See also
Dunglt, Vietnam Mobile Market Analysis 2012, Slideshare, Slide 51, available at
http://www.slideshare.net/Dunglt/vietnam-mobile-market-analysis-2012 (Mobile Market Analysis); VNS,
Smartphones battle for market share, Vietnam News, Feb. 20, 2010, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/business/196920/smartphones-battle-for-market-share.html.
76
See Joss Gillett, Vietnam makes solid start in 3G, GSMA Intelligence, November 2010, available at
https://gsmaintelligence.com/analysis/2010/11/vietnam-makes-solid-start-in-3g/232/; Nielsen,
Accelerating 3G adoption in Vietnam, Nov. 2010, Slide 6, available at
http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/t3/vietnam/reports/3G_ENG.pdf.
77
Na Son, Not accelerate 4G development in Vietnam: Minister, VietNamNet Bridge, Dec. 7, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90874/not-accelerate-4g-development-in-vietnam
minister.html.
78
See e.g. ANTD, The paradox in the 3G market, VietNamNet Bridge, Sept. 17, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/84595/the-paradox-in-the-3g-market.html; VNS, Mobile firms
hike cost of 3G internet, Vietnam News, April 6, 2013, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/237855/mobile-firms-hike-cost-of-3g-internet.html.
79
See e.g. Lewis Dowling, Smartphone sales boom in Vietnam, Total Telecom, Sept. 12, 2011, available
at http://www.totaltele.com/view.aspx?ID=467614; Mobile Market Analysis, Slide 52; Aayush Arya, Rising
costs of living not stopping the Vietnamese from buying the latest smartphones, The Next Web, Sept. 13,
2011, available at http://thenextweb.com/asia/2011/09/13/rising-costs-of-living-not-stopping-thevietnamese-from-buying-the-latest-smartphones/.
80
See Vietnam Mobile Phone Market Holds Strong Despite Inflationary Pressures, says IDC, IDG, Dec.
8, 2011, available at http://www.idg.com/www/pr.nsf/ByID/MBEN-8PPMQR; Smartphones spark mobile
Internet boom in Vietnam, GSMA Intelligence, July 2011, available at
https://gsmaintelligence.com/analysis/2011/07/smartphones-spark-mobile-internet-boom-in-vietnam/289/;
GfK Vietnam, Mobile phone industry in Vietnam registers boom amid soaring inflation, GfK Retail and
Technology, Sept. 12, 2011, available at
http://www.gfk.mobi/rt/news_events/market_news/single_sites/008675/index.en.php.
81
See Ellyne Phneah, Vietnam mobile phone Q2 shipment falls amid weaker economy, ZDNet, Oct. 4,
2012, available at http://www.zdnet.com/vietnam-mobile-phone-q2-shipment-falls-amid-weaker-economy7000005231/.

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Vietnams smartphone market.82 With smartphone adoption at approximately 15 percent, Nokia


remained the most widely adopted overall supplier of phones in Vietnam.83 Furthermore, the
increasingly attractive smartphone devices didnt always translate to 3G adoption.84
By late 2012, the device market was seeing an increasing diversity of suppliers. Asian
manufacturers had been bringing smartphones to market at an increasingly lower price.85
Vietnams mobile operators quickly partnered with these manufacturers to market branded
smartphones to the overwhelming majority of Vietnamese users who have yet to migrate.86 This
is in part due to manufacturers, not to mention operators, limited ability to break into the
feature phone market dominated by Nokia.87
By 2013, these Asian manufacturers accounted for nearly 40 percent of smartphone sales in
Vietnam,88 despite Samsung and Nokia still holding the largest shares for individual

Ian Mansfield, Vietnam Mobile Phone Market Slowed by Dip in Consumer Spending, Cellular News,
July 2, 2012, available at http://www.cellular-news.com/story/55183.php.
83
See Mobile Market Analysis, Slide 70; Dr. Madanmohan Rao, Mobile Southeast Asia Report 2012 Crossroads of Innovation, Mobile Monday, June 2012, p. 33, available at
http://www.mobilemonday.net/reports/SEA_Report_2012.pdf.
84
See e.g. Calum Dewar, 3G Growth stalls in Vietnam, Wireless Intelligence, April 2012, available at
https://gsmaintelligence.com/analysis/2012/04/3g-growth-stalls-in-vietnam/331/.
85
See e.g. Mobile Phone Demand Expands 14.5% as Market Fragments; Top 5 Pressured by Challenger,
Says IDC, IDC, Jyly 29, 2010, available at
http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20100729007221/en/Mobile-Phone-Demand-Expands-14.5Market-Fragments.
86
VNS, Smart-phone sales up 83% as consumer interest grows, Vietnam News, Dec. 22, 2013,
available at http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/234393/smart-phone-sales-up-83-as-consumer-interestgrows.html; VNS, Chinese smartphone makers flock to VN, Vietnam News, Oct. 26, 2013, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/246792/chinese-smartphone-makers-flock-to-vn.html; VNS, Viettel
inroduces cheapest smartphone, Vietnam News, Oct. 29, 2012, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/232018/viettel-introduces-cheapest-smartphone.html.
87
International Data Corporation, Vietnam Mobile Phone Market Continued Its Freefall as Economic
Problems Persist, says IDC, Press Release, Oct. 4, 2012, available at http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?
containerId=prVN23723212; NCDT, Nokia - Samsung the battle of the two tigers, VietNamNet Bridge,
May 18, 2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/74393/nokia-samsung-the-battleof-the-two-tigers.html. See also Local brand names help sell cheap Chinese phones, Vietnam News, Feb.
24, 2011, available at http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/208714/local-brand-names-help-sell-cheapchinese-phones.html.
88
International Data Corporation, Homegrown Asian Smartphone Brands Boost Asia Pacific Smartphone
Shipments: IDC, Press Release, Aug. 22, 2013, available at http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?
containerId=prSG24280513. See also Smartphone sales on a rise in Q2/2013: report, tuoitrenews, Aug.
9, 2013, available at http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/12943/smartphone-sales-on-a-rise-in-q2-2013-report;
Xinhua, Chinese cell phone brands to dominate Vietnamese market, Ecns.com, April 18, 2014, available
at http://www.ecns.cn/business/2014/04-18/109990.shtml.
82

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manufacturers.89 Subsequent reports suggest their popularity has more recently declined.90 The
Opera browser reported a rapid growth in popularity in Vietnam due to the explosion of
Android phones in Vietnam.91 With a mix of rising 3G prices and declining device cost,
smartphones remain out of reach for much of the Vietnamese population, particularly those
who are not city dwellers.92 While estimates vary, between 70 and 80 percent of Vietnamese
users have yet to migrate to a smartphone.93 These figures are expected to change
dramatically in the next few years, with operators already seeing some of the effects.94 Indeed,
one estimate puts 40 percent of the devices sold in the third quarter of 2013 to be
smartphones.95 While all segments of the population have significant room for growth, those
under 35 make up nearly 60 percent of smartphone adoption.96
Today, Vietnam offers mobile subscribers a wide variety of mobile devices including those only
recently introduced. Given the average income, many of these high-end devices are outside
the reach of most of the Vietnamese population. This is particularly true given the lack of
SGTT, Mobile phone market getting packed in like sardines, VietNamNet Bridge, May 7, 2013,
available at http:/english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/73304/mobile-phone-market-getting-packed-in-likesardines.html; Steven Millward, Which smartphones do Asians have now, and how much will they spend
on their next one? (CHART), TechInAsia, Dec. 11, 2013, available at
ttp://www.techinasia.com/december-2013-chart-smartphone-usage-asia-desire-for-iphone-android/; NLD,
Domestic versions of Korean Smart phones favored in VN, VietNamNet Bridge, Jan., 15, 2014,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/93782/domestic-versions-of-korean-smart-phonesfavored-in-vn.html.
90
See Buu Dien, Whos killing Vietnamese mobile phone brands?, VietNamNet Bridge, May 10, 2014,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/101721/who-s-killing-vietnamese-mobile-phonebrands-.html; Losing home market, Vietnamese smartphone manufacturers still talk tough, VietNamNet
Bridge, May 15, 2014, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/102399/losing-home-market
vietnamese-smartphone-manufacturers-still-talk-tough.html.
91
VNS, Vietnamese switch en masse to browsing on smart phones, Vietnam-telecomp, Sept. 10, 2013,
available at http://www.vietnam-telecomp.com/VNC13/Main/lang-eng/ShowUpdate.aspx#news63.
92
45% of users not satisfied with 3G quality: survey, tuoitrenews, Oct. 5, 2013, available at
http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/9484/45-of-users-not-satisfied-with-3g-quality-survey. See also International
Data Corporation, Android Dominates as Budget Tablets Flood Vietnam: IDC, Press Release, June 14,
2013, available at http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prVN24177013.
93
K. Chi, Affordable smart phones will be dominants in the market, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 29, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90244/affordable-smart-phones-will-be-dominantsin-the-market.html; Google, Our Mobile Planet, 2013, available at
http://think.withgoogle.com/mobileplanet/en/; Vietnams 2013 ICT White Book released,
VietnamWorldWide, Sept. 18, 2013, available at http://vietnamworldwide.com/sci-tech/vietnams-2013-ictwhite-book-released.html.
94
3G becoming breadwinners for Internet providers in Vietnam, Thanh Nien, Feb. 2, 2013, available at
http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/pages/20130201-3g-becoming-internet-breadwinner-invietnam.aspx; SGT, Vietnamese to own 20 million smartphones by 2013, VietNamNet Bridge, Dec. 20,
2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/91921/vietnamese-to-own-20-millionsmartphones-by-2014.html.
95
Mai Chi, Smart phones will be smarter in 2014, VietNamNet Bridge, Jan. 3, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/92970/smart-phone-will-be-smarter-in-2014.html.
96
Google, Our Mobile Planet, 2013, available at http://think.withgoogle.com/mobileplanet/en/.
89

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device subsidies. As shown in Appendix V, a mobile phone shop in Saigon offers a wealth of
devices. The vendors include Apple, (operator branded) Q-Mobile, Samsung, LG, Sharp, HTC
and Mobiistar, among many others. Nokia also began seeing some success with
smartphones.97 Most recently, heavily discounted Apple devices were experiencing increased
adoption. Despite the still significant costs, the perceived higher social status attained
through possessing the devices is cited as a primary reason.98
As smartphones inch closer to the costs of a feature phone, an increasing growth rate for
smartphone adoption in Vietnam is expected.99 With the additional capabilities, Vietnamese
users are increasingly relying on over-the-top services that have left mobile operators looking
for other means of generating revenue.100

SIM and Point of Sale Process


Numerous laws have been enacted in Vietnam to increase the rules surrounding the use of
mobile service in Vietnam. These laws compel individuals to provide personal information in
order to purchase mobile service. The government has highlighted the need for increased rules
by citing mass text message advertising and the efficient use of phone numbers, among other
reasons.
By 2007, the government began working to rein in the prepaid market of 45 million, up from 18
million in 2006.101 Beyond just multiple SIM card ownership, half of all Vietnamese own two or
more mobile phones.102 The regulations required the registration of all prepaid numbers. This
information included name, date of birth and ID card number. While the goal was to have
accurate information on subscribers and the associated accounts that are still active, the
stores selling SIMs had other plans. They quickly began registering all the SIMs purchased with
their own information rather than that of subscribers, reducing transaction time considerably.

K. Chi, Affordable smart phones will be dominants in the market, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 29, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90244/affordable-smart-phones-will-be-dominantsin-the-market.html.
98
Nguyen Phuong Linh, Apples sales boom in communist Vietnam, Reuters, April 24, 2014, available at
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/24/us-apple-vietnam-idUSBREA3N1DC20140424.
99
See e.g. SGTT, Mobile phone market getting packed in like sardines, VietNamNet Bridge, May 7, 2013,
available at http:/english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/73304/mobile-phone-market-getting-packed-in-likesardines.html.
100
See Section IV: Over-The-Top Mobile Apps.
101
See Decision No. 03/2007/QD-BTTT, Ministry of Information and Communications, Socialist Republic
of Vietnam, Sept. 4, 2007, available at http://thuvienphapluat.vn/archive/Quyet-dinh-03-2007-QD-BTTTTquy-dinh-quan-ly-thue-bao-di-dong-tra-truoc-vb54844.aspx. See also PrePay Registration Required in
Vietnam, Cellular News, April 17, 2006, available at http://www.cellular-news.com/story/16996.php;
Vietnamese govt approves prepaid registration policy, telecompaper, Jan. 22, 2007, available at
http://www.telecompaper.com/news/vietnamese-govt-approves-prepaid-registration-policy543078;
International Telecommunications Union, Statistics - Time Series By Country, Mobile-cellular
subscriptions, 2014, available at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx.
102
Google, Our Mobile Planet, 2013, available at http://think.withgoogle.com/mobileplanet/en/.
97

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In 2009, the government attempted to overcome the limitation of the 2007 law and created a
rule with far more specificity.103 These provisions including shutting down numbers with
inaccurate account information and banning retailers from selling SIMs to anyone not
registered. They also included a suspension of service for those who did not comply, further
solidifying the subscribers role in this process.104
Given the ubiquity of prepaid subscribers, the rules provided users a few months to comply
with these requirements. With the overwhelmingly predominant use of prepaid options, the
government had to extend the registration deadline multiple times.105
The government ultimately placed additional requirements on mobile providers by limiting
subscribers to three SIM cards per operator.106 The limit on SIM card ownership faced
compliance challengescertainly due in part to Vietnamese users knack for taking advantage
of promotional deals rather than re-upping an existing account or using a scratch card for an
existing SIM.107
Despite these repeated attempts at regulation, the resale of SIM cards continued to limit the
effectiveness of creating a detailed monitoring system for mobile usage. Indeed, one mobile
operator noted that despite the new rules on customers it was very easy for them to buy new
ones without providing exact individual information.108 As a result of these developments, the
government undertook an update of the rules.109 In 2012, a ban was imposed on re-registering
subscriber information when the subscriber owner is changed.110
This can be attributed in part to the fact that a SIM card does not need to be purchased at a
mobile networks retail store. It can instead be purchased in any manner of store or street stall.
Circular No. 22/2009/TT-BTTTT, Ministry of Information and Communications, Socialist Republic of
Vietnam, June 24, 2009; VNS, Ministry moves on pre-paid mobiles, Vietnam News, Dec. 10, 2009,
available at http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/194684/ministry-moves-on-pre-paid-mobiles.html.
104
Id.
105
MIC extends mobile registration deadline, TeleGeography, Aug. 18, 2009, available at
http://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2009/08/18/mic-extends-mobileregistration-deadline/; Vietnam Extends Deadline for Prepay SIM Card Registration, Cellular News, Jan.
4, 2010, available at http://www.cellular-news.com/story/41271.php.
106
See e.g. VNS, Mobile providers cut prices, Vietnam News, June 30, 2009, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/business-beat/189477/mobile-providers-cut-prices.html.
107
See e.g. Adi Robertson, Vietnam wants to limit subscribers to 18 SIM cards apiece, The Verge, March
20, 2012, available at http://www.theverge.com/2012/3/20/2886901/vietnam-sim-card-limit-proposal-18cards; Big three cellcos fined for violating SIM registration rules, TeleGeography, Jan. 25, 2013,
available at http://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2013/01/25/big-threecellcdos-fined-for-violating-sim-registration-rules/.
108
VNPT Report, p. 5.
109
Vietnam tightens grip on mobile phone users, Thanh Nien News, May 29, 2011, available at
http://www.thanhniennews.com/business/vietnam-tightens-grip-on-mobile-phone-users-12099.html.
110
Circular No. 04/2012/TT-BTTTT, Ministry of Information and Communications, Socialist Republic of
Vietnam, April 13, 2012, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/DispForm.aspx?ID=6346.
103

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Third-party vendors continue to find ways to sell spam SIMs. As one article notes, one
customer can own a dozen phone numbers without giving out any personal information.111
Ultimately, the government required mobile spammers to receive explicit consent from a
subscriber, but the registration rules remain.112 In fact, the government-owned mobile operators
were fined by the government for noncompliance in 2013, with little effect.113
With the ubiquity of mobile phone service in Vietnam, limitations to the enforcement of mobile
subscriber rules are rampant. In our experience, these rules were rarely followed in practice
and were limited to the small subset of users relying on post-paid subscriptions. In most cases,
purchasing a SIM card occurs without identification.
The mobile network stores visited required the recording of a customers information in order to
purchase a mobile service. For instance, Vietnamobile required a name, birth date and
identification number (in this case a passport) to purchase a data-only SIM card, as shown
below. In all other venues, a SIM card was purchased without any identifying information. This
disparity can be due in part to subscribing to a post-paid service, which by nature requires that
additional information be collected. VinaPhone required a substantially more detailed form,
which can be found in Appendix III.

More mobile subscriptions suspended in Vietnam for false registration, Thanh Nien News, Jan. 5,
2012, available at http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20120105-more-mobile-subscriptionssuspended-in-hcmc.aspx.
112
Vietnam tightens grip on spam with new decree, Tuoi Tre, Nov. 10, 2013, available at
http://tuoitrenews.vn/features-news/2633/vietnam-tightens-grip-on-spam-with-new-decree.
113
See Big three cellcos fined for violating SIM registration rules, TeleGeography, Jan. 25, 2013,
available at http://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2013/01/25/big-three-cellcosfined-for-violaing-sim-registration-rules/.
111

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Network Speeds
With increasing smartphone adoption, mobile providers have continued to deploy 3G service
across the country.114 Nevertheless, Vietnamese users have increasingly experienced quality
issues with 3G connectivity.115 By 2013 a Nielsen study found that 45 percent of 3G users were
unsatisfied with the quality of 3G service, up from 29 percent in 2011.116 According to data from
Measurement Lab, a significant degradation in VNPTs mobile network occurred within this
time frame.117
While these quality challenges are expected to grow, the cost to upgrade to 4G technology is
prohibitive, given the average income for a Vietnamese user. The government intended to see
See e.g. Van Oanh, Cash-strapped 3G providers want VND4 tril. deposits back, The Saigon Times,
Aug. 9, 2011, available at http://english.thesaigontimes.vn/Home/business/ict/18593/; VNS, Vietnam a
major ICT spender in 2014, dtinews, Dec. 30, 2013, available at
http://www.dtinews.vn/en/news/018/32685/vietnam-a-major-ict-spender-in-2014.html.
115
Buu Dien, Vietnams 3G service fee 40 times cheaper than in Europe, VietNamNet Bridge, May 9,
2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/73502/vietnam-s-3g-service-fee-40-timescheaper-than-in-europe.html; Quang Thuan-Truong Son, Vietnam 3G customers beef about lower quality
despite price hike, Thanh Nien News, April 10, 2014, available at
http://www.thanhniennews.com/business/vietnam-3g-customers-beef-about-lower-quality-despite-pricehike-25137.html.
116
45% of users not satisfied with 3G uquality: survey, tuoitrenews, Oct. 5, 2013, available at
http://tuoitrenews.vn/business/9484/45-of-users-not-satisfied-with-3g-quality-survey; ANTD, The paradox
in the 3G market, VietNamNet Bridge, Sept. 17, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/84595/the-paradox-in-the-3g-market.html.
117
Measurement Lab, Public Data, accessed Feb. 10, 2014, available at http://goo.gl/0bbvkj.
114

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deployment begin in 2015, once the cost of 3G deployment has been fully amortized.118 While
pilots of 4G technology have been approved, Vietnams 2020 telecom development road map
would have allowed the upgrade to occur no earlier than 2015.119 This start date was
subsequently delayed till 2018.120 Nevertheless, it appears that operators are actively working
towards deployment of 3.5G services nationwide.121
With 3G and smartphone adoption poised to grow dramatically, mobile proliferation is well
under way in Vietnam. Between increased adoption and growing usage, mobile networks will
require significant investment to keep up with user expectations. The dominance of
government-owned mobile operators makes such a path less clear. Regardless, Vietnam is
poised to see a whole new subset of the population gain personal Internet connectivity for the
first time.

Mobile Network Security


This section provides a security analysis of Vietnams four primary GSM networks, based on
data collected between the beginning and end of May 2013. The analysis is based on data
observations submitted to the SRLabs GSM Map project from on-the-ground researchers.122
This analysis compares implemented security protection features across the MobiFone,
Vietnamobile, Viettel, and VinaPhone mobile networks.
At the time of observation, researchers found MobiFone to have implemented the most
security protection features and Viettel Mobile to be the network offering the least protection
features in Vietnam. None of the networks sufficiently protect users against the ability for third
parties to intercept mobile phone calls or text messages. In all networks, the ability for any third
party to impersonate any other mobile user is possible with simple tools. In addition,
Vietnamobile and Viettel Mobile allow their mobile users to be tracked by third parties.

Na Son, Not accelerate 4G development in Vietnam, VietNamNet Bridge, Dec. 7, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90874/not-accelerate-4g-development-in-vietnam
minister.html.
119
See SGT, Vietnam should brace for 4G: experts, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 11, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/88632/vietnam-should-brace-for-4gexperts.html. See also
Section III: Infrastructure.
120
See Ian Mansfield, Vietnam to Delay LTE License Auction Until 2018, Cellular News, Feb. 17, 2012,
available at http://www.cellular-news.com/story/53095.php.
121
Thanh Mai, Mobile networks still see bright future for 3G, VietNamNet Bridge, May 7, 2014, available
at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/101540/mobile-networks-still-see-bright-future-for-3g.html.
122
See GSM Map Project, 2014, available at https://gsmmap.org.
118

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The GSM Map website reports protection features condensed into three dimensions as shown
above. The report details the logic behind the analysis results, lists some of the implemented
protection features, and maps the protection capabilities to popular attack tools.
The SRLabs GSM security metric is built on the understanding that mobile phone users are
exposed to three main security risks:

Interception: A third-party adversary records GSM calls and SMS from the air interface.
Decryption of calls and texts can be done in real time or as a batch process after
recording transactions in bulk.
Impersonation: Calls or SMS are either spoofed or received using a stolen mobile
identity.
Tracking: Mobile subscribers are traced either globally using Internet-leaked
information or locally by rogue devices on-the-ground.

It is important to note that these are summary findings from a full report automatically
generated using data submitted to gsmmap.org by volunteer researchers.123 The analysis does
not claim complete accuracy.124

Wireline
With the rapidly growing adoption of mobile Internet service and ubiquitous Internet cafes,
wireline access is not a prevalent means of gaining connectivity in Vietnam. Nevertheless, a
small subset of Vietnamese users subscribe to a wireline service. These users are
predominantly city dwellers, with Hanoi and Saigon accounting for 65 percent of total

Full report is available upon request to otf@rfa.org.


Please do not base far-reaching decisions on the conclusions provided herein, but instead verify them
independently. If inaccuracies are detected, gsmmap.org looks forward to hearing from you.
123
124

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broadband subscribers.125 Akamai found the average wireline connection speed in Vietnam to
be 1.8 Mbps with only 2.7 percent having connections greater than 4 Mbps.126

ADSL
According to the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC), there were 4.8 million
Vietnamese broadband Internet users at the end of 2013.127 The ITU estimates that figure to be
4.4 million in 2012.128 The predominant form of wireline connectivity is ADSL.129 The World Bank
estimated that more than 95 percent of total fixed broadband subscriptions are ADSL.130 The
few remaining customers rely on cable and fiber broadband access.
Of wireline ADSL subscribers, approximately 60 percent rely on VNPT, 30 percent on FPT
Telecom, and 8 percent on Viettel.131 According to VNPT, advertised top speeds vary from 3 to
10 Mbps down and 512 to 640 Kbps up.132 Similar speeds exists for other ADSL providers. The
prices typically range from 130,000 ($6.17) to as much as 1,400,000 dong ($66.46) with
variations in installation charges, capacity limits, and overage charges.133

Non-ADSL
While reports suggest wireline subscribers are looking for faster speeds than those offered by
slower ADSL connections, few options appear available. A wireline fiber or cable broadband
connection is a rarity in Vietnam.
Cable broadband has extremely limited deployment in Vietnam. According to the MIC, in mid2013 fewer than 160,000 subscribers existed in a country of 89 million.134 Recent

Tran Minh Tuan, Broadband in Vietnam: Forging Its Own Path, infoDev and World Bank, p. 24,
available at http://broadbandtoolkit.org/Case/vn (World Bank Report).
126
Akamais State of the Internet, Akamai, Q4 2013 Report, p. 39, available at
http://www.akamai.com/dl/akamai/akamai-soti-q413.pdf?WT.mc_id=soti_Q413.
127
AmCham White Book.
128
International Telecommunications Union, Fixed (wired)-broadband subscriptions, Statistics, 2014,
available at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx.
129
Regardless of the wireline service subscribed to a customer must present a police document known as
the h khu in order to subscribe. The same goes for renting an apartment or getting a job. Discussions
with informed observers suggest many find ways around the law. See also Vietnam to replace household
registers with identity cards. tuoitrenews, March 13, 2014, available at
http://tuoitrenews.vn/society/18288/vietnam-to-replace-household-registers-with-identity-cards.
130
World Bank Report, p. 19.
131
See Vietnam Telecommunications Authority, May 2013, available at
http://www.vnta.gov.vn/Trang/bieudo.aspx?tp=1&m=5&y=2013&f=4.
132
See http://vnpthanoi.com.vn/web/hotro/giacuoc_megavnn.asp; http://vietteltelecom.vn/khdn/ketnoi/adsl/gia-cuoc-dich-vu-10; http://www.fpt.vn/en/adsl/adsl.html and Appendix IV.
133
Id.
134
See Vietnam Telecommunications Authority, May 2013, available at
http://www.vnta.gov.vn/Trang/thongke-internet.aspx?m=5&y=2013&f=5.
125

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announcements suggest deployments of cable broadband may increase in the future.135 At


present however, very few Vietnamese utilize cable broadband for connectivity.
First trialed in 2006, fiber continues to be a technology with limited impact and few
subscribers, despite ambitious goals set by the government. According to early reports,
subscribers were made up of business and residents of greenfield deployments.136 While
subscription rates were predicted to increase dramatically, no indications suggest this took
place. According to the MIC, there are only about 350,000 fiber subscribers nationwide,
resulting in a penetration of approximately .4 percent.137
This dearth in fiber adoption is likely to continue given the costs of service. The monthly
subscription price ranges from 350,00 VND ($16.61) for 12 Mbps to 15 million VND ($712.07)
for 85 Mbps symmetrical connection, along with a 1 million VND ($47.47) installation fee, for
the few it is available to.138 More recently, operators have begun to take steps to lower the fees
to increase the subscriber base.139
With the current lack of availability and a booming mobile environment, it appears unlikely that
another wireline technology will see significant growth over ADSL in the near term. A portion of
this lack of wireline subscribership can be attributed to the availability of Internet cafes.
Internet cafes offer users access to a computer and a wireline Internet connection at a very low
price. A typical price for an hour of usage is 3000 Dong ($0.14).140 A speed test performed in
late 2013 from an Internet cafe in Hanoi found download speeds of about 5 Mbps while upload
speeds were .5 Mbps.141 One survey suggests that by 2009, a majority of Vietnamese Internet
Khin Sandi Lynn, Vietnam to get new cable broadband service, May 12, 2013, available at
https://www.abiresearch.com/blogs/vietnam-get-new-cable-broadband-service/; Van Ly, VTV launches
Internet service, The Saigon Times, Sept. 22, 2013, available at
http://www.vietnambreakingnews.com/2013/09/vtv-launches-internet-service/.
136
See e.g. Late 2010, the number of subscribers is quite small. The users are mainly big enterprises, IT
135

companies, and banks. It is predicted that it will take over 3 years; for FTTx to be more popular with the
current ADSL users. VNPT Report, p. 17; The cost of fiber optic access is only economical in new
urban areas and for large enterprises, World Bank Report, pp. 7, 18.
137

See Vietnam Telecomunications Authority, Statistical Data , available at

http://www.vnta.gov.vn/Trang/thongke-internet.aspx?m=5&y=2013&f=5.
See VNPT, Price - FiberVNN , April 2014, available at
http://www.fibervnn.vn/home/images/stories/bang-gia-capquang-vnpt-ftth-fibervnn-thang-4-2014.jpg. See
also World Bank Report, p. 20.
139
C.V., Vietnam thinks of the solutions to popularize FTTH, VietNamNet Bridge, Feb. 13, 2014,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/95556/vietnam-thinks-of-the-solutions-topopularize-ftth.html
140
See e.g. Mike Ives, Vietnam: Online gamers elude crackdown, globalpost, Dec. 29, 2010, available at
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/vietnam/101222/online-gaming-internet-restrictions.
141
Performed Nov. 3, 2013 in Hanoi via speedtest.net: Download speed: 5.19 Mbps, Upload speed: .52
Mbps and Ping time: 40 MS.
138

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users were accessing the Internet from home, whether wireline or wireless.142 Thus, while the
popularity of Internet cafes may have waned, they still play a valuable role in offering not only
affordable Internet access but also computer access.
Unfortunately, cafes are saddled with numerous rules requiring the installation of monitoring
software, customers providing their ID cards and cafe owners required to store them along with
a customers Internet activity.143 In Hanoi, these efforts were taken a step further and include
the regulation of business hours and location.144 Adherence to and enforcement of these rules
varies greatly. These developments are further discussed in Sections III and IV.
While ADSL is clearly dominant, subscribership pales in comparison to mobile connectivity.
Given the average household income, purchasing a computer is not possible for most
Vietnamese citizens. As a result, it appears likely that even if higher capacity options become
more attractive, few will adopt them.

Section II: Infrastructure Landscape


Backbone
Vietnams national backbone network consists of multiple fiber optic cables. VNNIC reports
that the country backbone has 737 Gbps domestic capacity, as of April 2014. This is a
significant increase from the 557 Gbps of capacity a year earlier.145
While there are now multiple owners and operators, Vietnams backbone infrastructure was
traditionally managed and owned by VTN, a subsidiary of the largest operator, VNPT.146 VNPT
is still one of the largest owners of backbone networks, alongside Viettel, the Army-ownedand-operated operator. FPT, Saigon Postel, Gtel, and other smaller providers also own and
operate some portion of the backbone.
While we quote the statistics above, its acknowledged that accurate statistics and
breakdowns of capacity and ownership are hard to come by, due in part to a combination of

Hien Nguyen, Yahoo! says Internet access trend in Vietnam to change, The Saigon Times Daily, May
21, 2010, available at http://english.thesaigontimes.vn/Home/ict/internet/10410.
143
See e.g. Vietnam Orders Net Clampdown, Associated Press, June 8, 2004, available at
http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2004/06/63764.
144
See e.g. Vietnam clamps down on internet cafes, RTE News, Aug. 16, 2010, available at
http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0814/134488-vietnam/.
145
Vietnam Telecommunications Authority, 2014, available at http://www.vnta.gov.vn/Trang/thongkeinternet.aspx.
146
Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research, Telecommunications in Vietnam, Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation, May 16, 2011, pp. 5-6, available at
http://mddb.apec.org/Documents/2011/SOM/SYM/11_som_sym1_012.pdf.
142

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business and government secrecy, and to a habit by some of the larger providers to inflate
their holdings and projections to appear bigger in the eyes of the world.
For example, in 2012, FPT, one of the three large, state-owned operators, announced the
launch its own North-South backbone cable system from Lang Son to Ca Mau. The
announcement estimated its up-to capacity at 4 terabit per second and quoted its length at
4,000 kilometers across 30 provinces and cities.147 However, when this assertion was
investigated by the authors of this report, many from the the Vietnamese technical and
operator community said they had never heard of the initiative and doubted its validity.
Still others had heard of it, but claimed that the numbers were wildly inflated.

Critical Infrastructure Locations


Most critical infrastructure is congregated in (or very near) Vietnams three major citiesHo Chi
Minh, Da Nang, and Hanoi, conveniently positioned in the south, middle, and north of the
country respectively. Vietnams international gateways, major metro PoPs, and cable landing
locations are situated in these cities, and most transit flows through these locations.148

The South-East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 3 (SMW3) submarine cable connects


in Da Nang, with a gateway operated by VTI (VNPT).149 You can see the cable in white
below.150

FPT, Telecommunications, 2010, available at


http://fpt.com.vn/en/products_and_services/telecommunications/.
148
Private meetings with operators and content providers.
149
The Asia Pacific Gateway (APG) is expected to launch in 2014 and will connect at Da Nang with
investments from Viettel and VNPT. See e.g. http://submarinenetworks.com/systems/intra-asia/apg.
150
All submarine cable images from Gregs Cable Map, 2014, available at http://www.cablemap.info/.
147

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The Asia-America Gateway (AAG) submarine cable connects in Vng Tu, just outside
of Saigon. The AAG gateway is operated by VTI. You can see the cable in white below.

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The TGN-Intra Asia Cable System (TGN-IA) also connects in Vng Tu. The TGN-IA
gateway is operated by Viettel. You can see the cable in white below.

The T-V-H Cable System (TVH) connects in Vng Tu as well. The TVH gateway is
operated by VNPT. You can see the cable in white below.

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The China Southeast Asia terrestrial cables (China Unicom, China Telecom, China
Mobile, CTT railway) connect in Lang Son and Mong Cai (north-east of Hanoi). These
gateways are operated by multiple operators. You can see Vietnams terrestrial network
below.151

International Telecommunication Union, Interactive Transmission Map, 2014, available at


http://www.itu.int/itu-d/tnd-map-public/.
151

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Major International Gateways


Vietnams total international capacity is estimated at 500-800 Gbps, reflecting the capacity of
the major cables connecting Vietnam to the global Internet.152 VTI (VNPT) offers the most
international capacity, followed by Viettel and FPT.
Each of the three major operatorsFPT, VNPT (via their subsidiary VTI), and Vietteloperate
an international gateway in (or near) each of the three major citiesSaigon, Da Nang, and
Hanoiequalling nine gateways total.153 In addition, there are a number of lower capacity
gateways set up by smaller operators, some licensed, some not. These gateways are mainly
connected to mainland China via terrestrial fiber out of Northern Vietnam.154
International traffic can be moved only through gateways owned and managed by licensed
operators. To obtain a license, an enterprise is required to be majority state-owned.155 While
private companies can get an ISP license, which allows them to act as an operator and to
purchase bandwidth from an international gateway operator, they are legally authorized to own
the infrastructure or manage an international gateway themselves.

Transit Costs
When discussing the cost of wholesale transit with multiple operators, content providers, and
analysts, we encountered widely varied estimates. What became clear in all discussions was
that prices are flexible, and that political connections and quid-pro-quo arrangements play a
large role in negotiations. The numbers below give a representative sample.
The data here reflect both quotes given by operators and disclosures from content providers
on the price they currently pay. We have included below the bookends of the ranges we heard,
to give a sense of the outliers and infer a median. The negotiated Service Level Agreement
(SLA) also plays a role in pricing, which isnt accounted for here.
Domestic transit
Domestic transit is often provided free when international bandwidth is purchased. Volume
discounts also apply. The quotes here demonstrate the variation in costs encountered.

100Mbps - $200 - $500 per month


1Gbps - $730 - $960 per month and $30 per Mb

International transit
Private meetings. See also Vietnam Telecommunications Authority, 2014, available at
http://www.vnta.gov.vn/Trang/thongke-internet.aspx.
153
Private meetings with operators.
154
Private meetings with operators.
155
Ordinance No. 43-2002-PL-UBTVQH10, National Assembly, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, May 25,
2002, available at http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/news/2002/10/ordinance-25-may-2002-posts-andtelecommunications.
152

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<50Mbps - $30-$40 per Mb


>50Mbps - $30 per Mb
1Gbps - $20 per Mb

IXPs and Interconnection


In Vietnam, an IXP is both an exchange point, where different networks exchange traffic and
reduce the costs of transit, and a type of license to allow an enterprise to operate an
international gateway. In the context of this section, we will be discussing IXPs as exchange
points, not IXP licensed operators.
Vietnam has three official IXPs, and one official IXP provider, VNIX. VNIX operates IXPs in
Vietnams three major citiesSaigon, Da Nang, and Hanoi.156 While many operators have
private exchanges, these exchanges consist of confidential, paid agreements, and handle only
downstream traffic, such that the full import of the term IXP cant be applied.157
VNIX is a government-run organization, operated by VNNIC, which is in turn run by the Ministry
of Information and Communications (MIC). In addition to running VNIX, VNNIC controls Internet
addressing, .vn domain allocation, in-country DNS, and other core internet management and
resourcing functions.
All Vietnamese operators are required to connect through VNIX, and all pay a fee to do so. This,
in effect, creates government-managed hubs through which a percentage of Vietnam's
domestic traffic travels. In multiple conversations, the rationale for the requirement to connect
with VNIX was said to be government information control and surveillance (this was also cited
as the rationale for requiring majority government ownership of any operator running an
international gateway). Adherence to numerous decrees is a requirement for any ISP
connecting through VNIX.158 More on these requirements can be found in Section III.
While connecting through VNIX is required, this is considered symbolic interconnection by
many Vietnamese operators. VNIX IXPs cannot handle close to the Vietnams domestic traffic
demand, and thus private interconnections and access points handle the majority of
exchanged traffic.159 It is estimated that of Vietnams 738 Gbps domestic capacity, about 129
Gbps moves through VNIX, with the rest moving through private peering arrangements
between operators.160

See e.g. VNNIC, 2013, available at http://www.vnnic.vn/vnix/gi%E1%BB%9Bi-thi%E1%BB%87u.


Private conversations.
158
See e.g. VNNIC, 2013, available at http://www.vnnic.vn/vnix/ch%C3%ADnh-s%C3%A1ch-vnix. VNIX
itself is subject to numerous requirements. See e.g. Circular No. 05/2008/TT-BTTTT, Ministry of
Information and Communication, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nov. 12, 2008, available at
http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn%20QPPL/Attachments/6155/13451418.pdf.
159
VNNIC data and private conversations.
160
VNNIC, 2014, available at http://www.thongkeinternet.vn/jsp/trangchu/index.jsp; Vietnam
Telecommunications Authority, 2014, available at http://www.vnta.gov.vn/Trang/thongke-internet.aspx.
156
157

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A 2011 Decree defines the governments basic stance on interconnection: telecommunications


enterprises are allowed to connect to other networks, and cant arbitrarily prevent other
operators from connecting to theirs.161 Operators with an IXP licensethose owning their
infrastructureare required to allow interconnection at any point in their network, provided this
is possible. While the law permits private-to-public interconnection without a contract, private
networks arent permitted to interconnect with each other without government permission.
However, peering between private networks appears to be commonplace, and regulations
against it are known but not heeded.162
Peering is viewed as a business decision, one that the government doesnt have the desire or
capacity to regulate or manage directly. Unpaid interconnection is rare, and happens only in
cases where the two networks traffic is symmetrical. More recently, private agreements have
not been reached resulting in an increasing number of disconnections.163
VNPT and Viettel maintain the highest capacity peering connections of 10 Gbps or more. One
major operator we talked to reported that Viettel had attempted to make an agreement with
FPT and VNPT to allow peering only between the three, excluding smaller players. While this
didnt happen, this highlights the ways in which interconnection is seen as a competitive
tool.164
The top content providers also peer directly, and often provide major interconnection hubs. For
example, VNG Corporation, Vietnams largest gaming provider, directly connects with VNPT
and FPT.165

Licensing and Ownership


Owning and operating a network requires a series of licenses, government approval, and close
ties to incumbent state-controlled operators and government operatives. During this research it
became clear that close ties and persistent lobbying counted for more in obtaining a given
license than did adherence to a tangled and often contradictory set of regulations and
requirements.166

Decree No. 25/2011/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, April 6,
2011, available at http://luatkhaiphong.com/Van-ban-Tieng-Anh/Decree-No.-25/2011/ND-CP-dated-April06-2011-6070.html.
162
Private conversations with multiple operators.
163
See e.g. The top 10 ICT sector developments of 2013, VietNamNet Bridge, Jan. 1, 2014, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/92786/the-top-10-ict-sector-developments-of-2013.html;Tran
Thang Long and Gordon Walker, Abuse of Market Dominance by State Monopolies in Vietnam, Houston
Journal of International Law, March 22, 2012, available at
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Abuse+of+market+dominance+by+state+monopolies+in+Vietnam.a0292992192.
164
Private conversation with operator.
165
See VNNIC, 2014, available at http://www.thongkeinternet.vn/jsp/dungluong/tongthe.jsp.
166
Private conversations with multiple operators and analysts.
161

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While licensing requirements exist, they are often arbitrarily enforced. An organization meeting
these requirements isnt guaranteed a license, and one not meeting them may still be granted a
license due to strong government connections or clever lobbying. In addition, many
organizations do business without a license, a condition that is increasingly tenuous as an
enterprise grows, and similarly requires the shield of powerful government officials and
connections with incumbents. What is recounted below, then, is an overview of the official
licensing requirements and categories, not an account of the real, messy, and often much less
straightforward means that an organization must employ to obtain a license.
Licensing is controlled by the Ministry of Information and Communications. A 2002 Ordinance
set out two basic categories, based on which more specific licenses are granted:167
1. Facility-Based Operators (FBO) or network infrastructure provider license. The critical
component is that those possessing this license own the infrastructure. A condition of
obtaining this license is majority government controlFBOs must be majority-owned
by the government. This license has a maximum term of 15 years.
2. Service-Based Operators (SBO) or telecommunications service provider license. These
licenses can be awarded to private-sector organizations, but require the recipient to
lease infrastructure from FBO incumbents. This license has a maximum term of 10
years.
There are currently 11 FBO licenses granted in Vietnam,168 and many of these are effectively
licenses granted to multiple subsidiaries under the same umbrella organization.
An additional 81 operators possess an SBO license.169 However, its unclear how many of
those licensed are actually operating as SBOs, and how many dont, but could if they wanted
to. What is clear is that the large government-controlled incumbents dominate the market. The
entities that have been successful outside of this umbrella are often those who serve niche
markets with value-added services not offered by the large incumbents. NetNam, a small but
thriving ISP serving luxury hotels and apartment complexes, is an example of an SBO
operating in this mode.
Conversations with multiple operators led to a repeated assertion that while the government
does allow the SBO business model to exist, it doesnt do much else to encourage it, and that
Ordinance No. 43-2002-PL-UBTVQH10, National Assembly, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, May 25,
2002, available at http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/news/2002/10/ordinance-25-may-2002-posts-andtelecommunications. See also Russin & Vecchi, Telecommunications in Vietnam, Feb. 2014, pp. 14-17,
available at http://www.amchamhanoi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Telecommunications.pdf.
168
Dr. Nguyen Hong Van, Broadband network intiatives and future plans in Vietnam, Ministry of Science
and Technology, Sept. 2013, Expert Consultation on the Asian Information Superhighway and Regional
Connectivity, United Nations ESCAP, Slide 6, available at
http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/4.6%20Broadband%20network%20initiatives%20and%20future
%20plan%20in%20Viet%20Nam.pdf.
169
Id.
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the allowance itself exists as concession to international observers and WTO requirements, a
way to gesture at meeting international standards without actively encouraging shared
infrastructure or competition.
Before being granted an FBO, an enterprise must first receive a trial license to deploy
infrastructure. This trial license comes after review and approval by the MIC, and allows
operation of experimental technologies or deployments for a limited time. The trial
deployments success is reviewed to determine the possibility of a more lasting license. This
allows government control and oversight not only over existing infrastructure, but over the type
of technology deployed and the scope of its deployment.
A 2001 decree outlined three license categories, with which the more general categories
defined in the 2002 decree interact:170
1. Internet Exchange Point (IXP) licenses allow an operator to connect to other IXPs, ISPs,
and directly to the global internet. IXP licenses are granted only to government-owned
or majority-controlled enterprises. Thus, the government retains some control over all
traffic entering and leaving the country.
2. Internet Service Provider (ISP) licenses allow an operator to connect to IXPs and other
ISPs, but not to connect directly to the global Internet except through an IXP-run
international gateway. (Private ISPs are prohibited from interconnecting with each
other).171
3. OSP (Online Service Provideran enterprise that provides applications, content, or
other online properties) licenses allow connection to IXPs, ISPs, but, as above, not
directly to the global Internet.
While lists and numbers on which enterprises are licensed for each license category are
available, evidence points to continued uncertainty and to a lack of enforcement and
adherence to these strict categories. Public reports and Vietnamese government sources often
contradict each other, and among those known to possess a given license, its often unclear
who is actually operating as a service provider versus who simply possess the permission to
do so.172
A case in point is the difference between the public numbers reported by the MIC, and those
reported by the Vietnam Telecommunications Authority (VTA). Both are government agencies,
but each provides different numbers. The MIC lists five enterprises with IXP licenses, nine with
Decree No. 55/2001/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Communist Party of Vietnam, Aug.
23, 2001, available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=9441.
171
This is not to be confused with an Internet access service provider, which appears to be a
subcategory. The MIC defines an Internet service as a form of telecommunications service, including
Internet access service and Internet connection service. See Appendix VI.
172
Id.
170

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ISP licenses, and 13 with OSP licenses;173 VTA reports larger numbers: 12 enterprises with IXP
licences, 58 enterprises with ISP licenses, and 77 with OSP licenses.174
Whatever the final count, the fact remains that state-run incumbents dominate the market.
Similarly, among those possessing IXP licenses, the leading three operatorsVNPT, FPT, and
Vietteloperate the large international gateways.
Operating with a license is a necessary condition for any large-scale enterprise. However,
many smaller operators are reportedly doing business without licenses. Many we spoke to
described an ecosystem of small, local operators providing last-mile services without a
license. Similarly, many content providers launch applications and services without a license.
While large scale business would not be possible without the proper licenses, and without the
government approval and connections these require, small enterprises do break fences and
provide services in spite of being unlicensed.
Gaining a wireless license does not differ greatly from the process described above.
Accordingly, the largest wireline operators are also the largest wireless providers. In 2009, the
MIC awarded four 3G licenses to VNPT-owned VinaPhone and Mobifone, Viettel, and Hanoi
Telecom-owned Vietnamobile. In 2009, the National Assembly passed a law on radio
frequencies that consolidated the variety of existing regulations on spectrum licensing.175 As a
result of the 2009 law, The Authority of Radio Frequency Management within the MIC and
Vietnam Telecommunications Authority were created in late 2011 to oversee all radio spectrum
planning and implementation.176
Prior to the oversight shift, five 4G test licenses were provided by the MIC to state-affiliated
operators in 2010. A year later only two test licenses, VNPT and Viettel, were used.177 Citing 3G
networks utilizing only 10 percent of overall capacity, the MIC delayed the auctions of 4G

Ministry of Information and Communications, Operators, available at


http://english.mic.gov.vn/Statistics/staticstics_open/Trang/operators.aspx.
174
Vietnam Telecommunications Authority, November, 2012, available at
http://vnta.gov.vn/giayphep/ccdv/Trang/Danhs%C3%A1chc%C3%A1cdoanhnghi%E1%BB%87p.aspx.
175
Law No. 42/2009/QH12, National Assembly, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nov. 23, 2009, available at
http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=10473.
176
International Telecomunications Union, Wireless Broadband Masterplan Until 2020 For The Socialist
Republic of Vietnam, October 2012, available at http://www.itu.int/ITUD/tech/broadband_networks/WirelessBDMasterPlans_ASP/WBB_MasterPlan_VietNam.pdf.
177
Dusan Belic, Two networks in Vietnam start LTE trials, IntoMobile, Oct. 20, 2010, available at
https://www.intomobile.com/2010/10/20/vietnam-lte-trials/; Report: LTE licenses go unused in Vietnam,
Mobile World Live, May 9, 2011, available at http://www.mobileworldlive.com/report-lte-licences-gounused-in-vietnam.
173

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licenses until 2015 and subsequently 2018.178 More information on the mobile networks in
Vietnam can be found in Section I.

Section III: Regulatory Landscape


Legal Landscape
The regulatory landscape in Vietnam is defined by ensuring that the government has the legal
language at its disposal to take whatever actions it sees fit. Recourse for those affected is nonexistent. In general, the language takes two forms, overly broad and extremely specific. Both
are utilized as the government deems necessary. In general, the process by which this legal
language is created includes a now-familiar level of obscurity and control.
In Vietnam, legal documents can take on a variety of means: constitution, code, law, resolution,
ordinance, decree, decision, and circular.179 The creation of decrees is done by the
government, while decisions are put forth by the prime minister. These are the two primary
mechanisms, along with the Penal Code, utilized to repress speech and control the activities of
the population. These legal actions are the focus of this section.

The Penal Code


Articles within the Penal Code have long been used to arrest and persecute those the
government determines are not favorable to its cause.180 The current Penal Code was passed
by the National Assembly in 1999. The 1999 Penal Code expanded and updated previous
Penal Codes utilized in Vietnam.181 The expanse of areas covered within the Penal Code,
combined with the vague language throughout, creates a recipe for abuse. Indeed, more than
60 activists were arrested in 2013 alone, with a violation of the Penal code being cited as the

Vietnam delays 4G service licensing to 2015, VietNamNet Bridge, Jan. 18, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/57240/vietnam-delays-4g-service-licensing-to-2015.html; Ian
Mansfield, Vietnam to Delay LTE License Auction Until 2018, Cellular News, Feb. 17, 2012, available at
http://www.cellular-news.com/story/53095.php.
179
See e.g. Vietnam Ministry of Justice, Legal Normative Documents - The Prime Minister of
Government, available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Pages/vbpq.aspx?cqbh=The%20Prime
%20Minister%20of%20Government.
180
See e.g. Freedom Now, Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Universal Periodic Reivew: Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Human Rights Council - UPR Working Group,
June 7, 2013, available at http://www.freedom-now.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Freedom-NowVietnam-UPR-6.7.13.pdf.
181
See Penal Code, No. 15/1999/QH10, Dec. 21, 1999, available at http://moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn
%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=610.
178

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reason.182 Below are some of the articles from the Penal Code being cited by the government
when convicting Internet users and activists:
Article 79 - Carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people's administration
Those who carry out activities, establish or join organizations with intent to overthrow the peoples
administration shall be subject to the following penalties:
1. Organizers, instigators and active participants or those who cause serious consequences shall be
sentenced to between twelve and twenty years of imprisonment, life imprisonment or capital punishment;
2. Other accomplices shall be subject to between five and fifteen years of imprisonment.

Example - In January 2013, 13 bloggers and activists were arrested under Article 79 after being
accused of plotting to overthrow the government.183

Article 80 - Spying
1. Those who commit one of the following acts shall be sentenced to between twelve and twenty years of
imprisonment, life imprisonment or capital punishment:
a) Conducting intelligence and/or sabotage activities or building up bases for intelligence and/or sabotage
activities against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam;
b) Building up bases for intelligence and/or sabotage activities at the direction of foreign countries;
conducting scouting, informing, concealing, guiding activities or other acts to help foreigners conduct
intelligence and/or sabotage activities;
c) Supplying or collecting for the purpose of supplying State secrets to foreign countries; gathering or
supplying information and other materials for use by foreign countries against the Socialist Republic of
Vietnam.
2. In case of less serious crimes, the offenders shall be sentenced to between five and fifteen years of
imprisonment.
3. Persons who agree to act as spies but do not realize their assigned tasks and confess, truthfully declare
and report such to the competent State bodies shall be exempt from penal liability.

Example - On March 2003, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que was arrested under Article 80 for sending
information critical of the Vietnamese government via the Internet.184
See Vietnam activist jailed for Facebook posts, AFP, Oct. 29, 2013, available at
http://www.news24.com/World/News/Vietnam-activist-jailed-for-Facebook-posts-20131029; Vietnam to
clamp down on social media news postings, AFP, Aug. 1, 2013, avilable at
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hed3fOLcXG4Sinkl_CNmaMc3bzOQ?
docId=CNG.779892e85fde7ed95288d56b4af87e13.31; Vietnam sends blogger to prison for critical
posts, Associated Press, March 19, 2014, available at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/vietnam-sends-blogger-to-prison-for-criticalposts/2014/03/04/9a8c253c-a371-11e3-b865-38b254d92063_story.html.
183
14 Tried for Dissent, Radio Free Asia, Jan. 8, 2013, available at
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/trial-01082013181353.html. See also Testimony of Vo Van Ai,
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing, May 15, 2012, available at
http://tlhrc.house.gov/docs/transcripts/2012_5_15_Human_rights_vietnam/Vo%20Van%20Ai%20Written
%20Testimony.pdf.
182

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Article 87 - Undermining unity policy


1. Those who commit one of the following acts with a view to opposing the peoples administration shall be
sentenced to between five and fifteen years of imprisonment:
a) Sowing division among people of different strata, between people and the armed forces or the peoples
administration or social organizations;
b) Sowing hatred, ethnic bias and/or division, infringing upon the rights to equality among the community of
Vietnamese nationalities;
c) Sowing division between religious people and non-religious people, division between religious believers
and the peoples administration or social organizations;
d) Undermining the implementation of policies for international solidarity.
2. In case of committing less serious crimes, the offenders shall be sentenced to between two and seven
years of imprisonment.

Example - In March 2012, an activist was arrested under Article 87 for articles posted on the
Internet.185

Article 88 - Conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam


1. Those who commit one of the following acts against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam shall be
sentenced to between three and twelve years of imprisonment:
a) Propagating against, distorting and/or defaming the peoples administration;
b) Propagating psychological warfare and spreading fabricated news in order to foment confusion among
people;
c) Making, storing and/or circulating documents and/or cultural products with contents against the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam.
2. In the case of committing less serious crimes, the offenders shall be sentenced to between ten and
twenty years of imprisonment.

Example - Since 2009, at least 24 writers, many publishing online, have been arrested under
Article 88.186

Article 89 - Disrupting security


1. Those who intend to oppose the peoples administration by inciting, involving and gathering many
people to disrupt security, oppose officials on public duties, obstruct activities of agencies and/or
organizations, which fall outside the cases stipulated in Article 82 of this Code, shall be sentenced to
between five and fifteen years of imprisonment.
2. Other accomplices shall be sentenced to between two and seven years of imprisonment.

Vietnam: UN Delegates Should Condemn Internet Arrests, Human Rights Watch, April 1, 2003,
available at http://www.hrw.org/news/2003/03/30/vietnam-un-delegates-should-condemn-internet-arrests.
185
International Federation for Human Rights, World Organisation Against Torture and Vietnam
Committee on Human Rights, Open letter to the Government of Vietnam, March 22, 2013, available at
http://www.fidh.org/Open-letter-to-the-Government-of-13069.
186
Vietnam: Article 19s submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review, Article 19, June 18, 2013,
available at http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/37111/en/.
184

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Example - Independent labor activists were charged and tried under Article 89 in 2011.187

Article 258 - Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State
1. Those who abuse the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of belief, religion,
assembly, association and other democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the
legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens, shall be subject to warning, non-custodial
reform for up to three years or a prison term of between six months and three years.
2. Committing the offense in serious circumstances, the offenders shall be sentenced to between two and
seven years of imprisonment.

Example - Numerous bloggers were arrested under Article 258 in 2013-4.188

A number of additional Articles are abused with less frequency including Article 78 (High
Treason), Article 82 (Rebellion), Article 84 (Terrorism), Article 104 (Harming the Health of Others)
and Article 271 (Publication or Distribution of Content).189
In general, Penal Code articles are interpreted and enforced as the authorities see fit. Many of
those opposed to these government actions focus on the positive language that exists within
Vietnams Constitution to highlight freedoms that are promised but not provided.190 For
instance, Article 69 of Vietnams Constitution states:191
Citizens are entitled to freedom of speech and freedom of the press; they have the right
to receive information and the right of assembly, association and demonstration in
accordance with the law.

Vietnam: Overturn Labor Activists Harsh Prison Sentences, Human Rights Watch, March 16, 2011,
available at http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/03/16/vietnam-overturn-labor-activists-harsh-prisonsentences.
188
See e.g. Vietnam Jails Second Dissident Blogger in a Month, Radio Free Asia, March 19, 2014,
available at http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/second-03192014131357.html; Third Blogger
Arrested in Less Than a Month, Human Rights Watch, June 17, 2013, available at
http://en.rsf.org/vietnam-blogger-and-former-party-official-17-06-2013,44801.html; Vietnam activist jailed
for Facebook posts, AFP, Oct. 29, 2013, available at http://www.news24.com/World/News/Vietnamactivist-jailed-for-Facebook-posts-20131029.
189
Patrick Goodenough, Vietnam Frees and Deports American Detained for Terrorism, Subversion,
CNS News, Jan. 31, 2013, available at http://cnsnews.com/news/article/vietnam-frees-and-deportsamerican-detained-terrorism-subversion; Vietnam: Article 19s submission to the UN Universal Periodic
Review, Article 19, June 18, 2013, available at
http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/37111/en/.
190
See e.g. Vietnam: Halt crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International, Aug. 7, 2012,
available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/news/viet-nam-halt-crackdown-freedom-expression-2012-08-070.
191
1992 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, available at
http://www.vietnamlaws.com/freelaws/Constitution92(aa01).pdf.
187

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Policy Decisions and Decrees


A variety of decrees have been introduced in recent years that focus on the development of
ICT. Unfortunately, some have had the opposite effect with a focus on limiting the legality of
online activities.
The governments ownership of the largest telecommunications operators offers a cozy and
direct relationship in drafting decrees on telecommunications. As a result, when public
comment is solicited, a decision has likely already been made. What follows is a review of the
rules that have directly impacted the communications landscape. Given the dramatic effects
caused by digital communication in recent years, the review is segmented between
infrastructure and freedom of speech.

Infrastructure
Following a few resolutions in the mid-1990s, a 2000 directive from the Central Executive
Committee stated The use and development of IT in our country strengthens the material,
intellectual and spiritual growth of the whole nation...The status of IT use in Vietnam, however,
is still backward. Progress is slow, creating the risk of a growing gap compared to many
countries in the world and in the region. The directive went on to offer lofty, albeit vague,
aspirations on IT growth in Vietnam.192 The following year the prime minister issued a decision
highlighting the need to improve ICT infrastructure within Vietnam and calling for planning in a
number of areas to be implemented by the Department of Post and Telecommunications.193
The areas being focused on included creating large capacity links between communes,
normalizing rates to be on par with regional countries, improving telephone penetration, and
expanding Internet service to reach universities, hospitals, and similar institutions. The decision
also called for the introduction of new enterprises within telecommunications and Internet
service with a goal of having these entities meet subscribership goals of 25-30 percent by 2005
and 40-50 percent by 2010.194

Directive No. 58-CT/TW, Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Vietnam, Oct. 17, 2000,
available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/Attachments/6227/VB530438489.doc.
193
Decision No. 158/2001/QD-TTg, The Prime Minister of Government, Communist Party of Vietnam,
Oct. 18, 2001, available at http://policy.mofcom.gov.cn/english/flaw!fetch.action?
libcode=flaw&id=ad974a0a-757a-4c2a-b36c-1fc291d7da08&classcode=120. A more detailed summary
can be found here: GIPI VIetnam, Status of Telecommunication Development in Vietnam, March 2004,
pp. 32-3, available at http://www.internetpolicy.net/about/20040300vietnam.pdf. See also Directive No.
09/2001/CT-TCBD, General Department of Post and Telecommunications, Communist Party of Vietnam,
Nov. 30, 2011, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn%20QPPL/DispForm.aspx?
ID=6304.
194
Id.
192

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The following year the Vietnam Standing Committee National Assembly passed the Ordinance
on Posts and Telecommunications.195 The decree implementing this Ordinance occurred in
2004. The decree focuses on assigning duties to the Ministry of Post and Telematics (MPT):196

Licensing telecommunications operators including an explicit condition for approval


that the State must have ultimate control over the entity;
Formulating telecommunication development strategies and interconnection
regulations along with managing the national backbone;
Defining whether telecommunication services are basic or value-added.

In the same year, a decision by the prime minister called for a telecommunication service fund
to support the implementation of the State's policies on the provision of public-utility
telecommunication services in the whole country.197
A subsequent decision by the prime minister in 2005 focused on further ICT improvements in
Vietnam. This included calling for the dramatic expansion of domestic hardware and software
industries through improving education and ICT infrastructure. The decision set the following
goals:198
By 2011: Almost all households will have telephone sets;
By 2015: To basically complete the broadband network in communes and wards

nationwide, connecting Internet to all schools; to cover 85% of the population with
broadband mobile information waves; Vietnam will be ranked among 65 countries
on the ranking list of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU);
By 2015: 20-30% of households nationwide will have computers and access
broadband Internet; over 90% of households will have television sets, of which
80% will be able to watch digital television by different modes;
By 2020: To complete the broadband network in almost all villages and hamlets; to
cover 95% of the population with broadband mobile information waves; Vietnam
will be ranked among 55 countries on the ranking list of the ITU (in the one-third
group of leading countries);
By 2020: Almost all households nationwide can use digital services; 50-60% of
households nationwide will have computers and access broadband Internet, of
which 20-30% access optical cable broadband; almost all households will have
television sets and be able to watch digital television by different modes.

Ordinance No. 43/2002/PL-UBTVQH10, National Assembly, Communist Party of Vietnam, Oct. 3,


2002, available at http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/news/2002/10/ordinance-25-may-2002-posts-andtelecommunications.
196
Decree No. 160/2004/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Sept.
3, 2004, available at http://vbpl.vn/TW/Pages/vbpqen-toanvan.aspx?ItemID=7661.
197
Decision No. 191/2004/QD-TTg, The Prime Minister of Government, Communist Party of Vietnam,
Nov. 8, 2003, available at http://policy.mofcom.gov.cn/english/flaw!fetch.action?
libcode=flaw&id=9127f101-deea-4eb4-b120-ba72d16ca5a0.
198
Decision No. 246/2005/Q-TTg, The Prime Minister of Government, Communist Party of Vietnam,
Oct. 6, 2005, available at http://moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=10749.
195

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In 2006, the prime minister approved an additional series of telecommunications goals, known
as Program 74, to be achieved by 2010. The primary goals were:199
The telephone density in areas provided with public telecommunications services

shall be over 5 telephone sets/100 people;


100% of communes nationwide shall have public telephone service access points;
70% of communes nationwide shall have public Internet access points;
Every person shall get free access to mandatory telecommunications services.

According to the World Bank, the practical effect of these goals was mobilized financial
resources and technical capacity of telecommunications enterprises in Vietnam to develop
network infrastructure and services for extreme poverty rural areas.200 By 2006, VNPT had
invested 600 billion VND ($28.6 million) for 8,075 CPCPs (Communal P&T (Post &
Telecommunications) and Cultural Points) in which 1,535 were located in extreme poverty
communes.201 These CPCPs were primarily located in the centre of cities and towns.202 As a
result, less than one percent of rural households had any type of Internet access in 2008
where approximately 70 percent of the population resides.203
By 2009, the National Assembly passed a sweeping law on telecommunications. The law
created a variety of rules for telecommunications operators and users, some of which are
described in the following section. The National Assembly also directed the MIC to create a
national plan on telecommunications development.204
In 2010, the prime minister approved the plan proposed by MIC to make Vietnam a country
strong in information and communication technologies. The objectives follow a now-familiar
themeto improve the ICT workforce,205 improve telecommunication penetration and adoption,
and reaffirm the goals originally announced in 2005.206 This came weeks prior to a proposed

Decision No. 74/2006/QD-TTg, The Prime Minister of Govenrment, Communist Party of Vietnam, April
7, 2006, available at http://moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=5714. See also Decision No. 32/2006/QD-TTg,The Prime Minister of Govenrment, Communist
Party of Vietnam, Feb. 7, 2006, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/DispForm.aspx?ID=6318.
200
World Bank Report, p. 25.
201
Id.; Thanh Tuyen Nguyen, Knowledge Economy and Sustainable Economic Development: A critical review,
pp. 99-100, Walter de Gruyter: 2010, available at https://encrypted.google.com/books?
id=c9x_iHWS54cC.
202
Id.
203
Id., p. 7. See also World Bank, Urban population (% of total), World Development Indicators, 2014,
available at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS.
204
Law No. 41/2009/QH12, National Assembly, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nov. 23, 2009, available at
http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=10472.
205
See also Decision No. 698/2009/QD-TTg,The Prime Minister of Government, Communist Party of
Vietnam, June 1, 2009.
206
Decision No. 1755/Q-TTg ,The Prime Minister of Govenrment, Communist Party of Vietnam, Sept. 9,
2010, available at http://moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=10749.
199

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declaration by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to prioritize the deployment of


next-generation networks among members, which include Vietnam.207
A decree in 2011 offered some signs of the government beginning to address competition
issues by placing limits on horizontal ownership in the telecommunications sector.208 This was
of greatest importance in the mobile space, where VNPT owns two of the top three mobile
operators.209 The subsequent separation and potential privatization is a sign that competition
may take precedence over incumbent interests.
The VNPT action came as part of a larger restructuring plan that is being required of all stateowned enterprises (SOEs). Following the near collapse of Vinashin in 2010 as a result of poor
investment decisions,210 the initiative is focused on forcing the sale of SOEs noncore
businesses and investments.211
In 2012, the Party Central Committee issued a resolution focused on building the synchronous
infrastructure system in order for Vietnam to become a modern industrial country by 2020.212
The resolution stated that the infrastructure system in our country still has many limits,
weakness, obsolete, asynchronous, low connection, which is a blocked point of development
process.213 The action program for implementation of this resolution was issued in mid-2012.
The prime minister listed a number of IT-related tasks including to concentrate investment on
building an internationally linked information technology and communication infrastructure
system, thus forming an internationally linked information superhighway in the country.214

APEC eyes next-generation broadband networks by 2020, AFP, Oct. 31, 2010, available at
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/infotech/view/20101031-300742/APEC-eyes-next-generationbroadband-networks-by-2020; See also APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group,
Universal broadband access improves development; disaster preparedness, April 5, 2012, available at
http://www.apec.org/Press/Features/2012/0405_teldialogues.aspx.
208
Decree No: 25/2011/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, April 6,
2011, available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=10579.
209
See Dezan Shira & Associates, New Decree Detailing Telecom Law of Vietnam, April 27, 2011,
available at http://www.dezshira.com/updates/2011/04/new-decree-detailing-telecom-law-ofvietnam.html/.
210
See e.g. Matt Steinglass, Vietnam shipbuilder fights to stay afloat, Financial Times, Aug. 31, 2010,
available at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0846a888-b51c-11df-9af8-00144feabdc0.html.
211
Vietnam Targets June Plan to Revamp State Firms, Trung Says, Bloomberg News, Feb. 5, 2013,
available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-04/vietnam-to-unveil-state-firms-overhaul-plan-byjune-trung-says.html; Vietnam Gets Tough on State Firms in Economics Growth Push, Bloomberg
News, July 25, 2013, available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-24/vietnam-gets-tough-onstate-firms-in-economic-growth-push.html.
212
CPV, Developing National Information Infrastructure, VietNamNet Bridge, Jan. 17, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/57225/developing-national-information-infrastructure.html.
213
Resolution No. 13-NQ/TW, The Central Executive Committee of Communist Party, Jan. 16, 2012,
available at http://thuvienphapluat.vn/archive/Recolution-No-13-NQ-TW-on-constructing-system-ofsynchronous-infrastructure-vb144170.aspx.
207

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Despite the multitude of statements, the extent to which these proclamations will result in
substantial communications infrastructure improvements is not yet clear.

Freedom of Speech
Despite the governments quick recognition of the economic benefits extending from the
Internet, their acknowledgement of the free speech implications came even earlier. A
government decree in 1997 made clear that existing press and publication laws apply to
Internet use in Vietnam.215 The decree states specifically:216
1. They must not incite opposition to the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam or
undermine the national unity;
2. They must not incite violence, not make propaganda for aggressive war, not sow
hatred among nations and peoples, not disseminate reactionary ideologies and cultures,
the lecherous and depraved way of life, crime, social evils and superstition, and not harm
the fine traditions and customs;
3. They must not disclose secrets of the Party and the State, military, security, economic
or diplomatic secrets, the private life of citizens and other secrets as prescribed by the
law;
4. They must not spread false information, distort the history, repudiate the achievements
of the revolution, disparage leaders and national heroes, sland, harm the prestige of
organizations or the honor and dignity of citizens.

Even as the government recognized the importance of the ICT sector to economic growth and
began to take the host of measures described above, it sought to ensure that the rights of
citizens did not grow online. This conflicted position is reflected as early as 2001. Article 3 of
the decree states:217
The development of Internet in Vietnam shall comply with the following principles:

Resolution 16/NQ-CP, The Central Executive Committee of Communist Party, June 8, 2012, available
at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn%20QPPL/Attachments/6349/16NQ12.DOC (Microsoft
Word document).
215
Another decree issued in 1997 reportedly allowed for administrative detention without trial of
individuals considered to be a threat to national security for between 6 months and 2 years. See Vietnam
- Twelve human rights defenders have the floor, The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders, April 2007, pp. 10-11, available at
http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/Vietnam.HRDs.Report.200407.pdf (Twelve Defenders Report). A second
decree required those posting information online to submit a dossier of information to the government
prior to gaining approval to do so legally. See Inter-Ministerial Circular No. 08/TTLT, General Department
of Post and Communications, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Culture and Information, Socialist
Republic of Vietnam, May 24, 1997, available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php
%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=2445.
216
Decree No. 21/1997/CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, March 5,
1997, available at http://www.kenfoxlaw.com/resources/legal-documents/governmental-decrees/2245vbpl.html.
217
Decree No. 55/2001/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Aug.
23, 2001, available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=9441.
214

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1. The managerial capability must keep pace with development requirements and at the
same time there must be synchronous measures to prevent acts of taking advantage of
Internet to affect the national security or breach the ethics, customs and fine traditions.
2. To develop Internet with all high-quality services and reasonable charges so as to meet
the requirements of the cause of national industrialization and modernization.

The decree goes on to state that the act of taking advantage of Internet to oppose the State
of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is strictly prohibited and subject to penal enforcement.218
It also provides the government the power of managing information on Internet, managing
safety and security of Internet activities, and managing the encoding and decoding of
information on Internet.219 Penalties of between 50 thousand ($2.37) and 70 million VND
($3,323) were attached to violating the policies stemming from this management.
A division in power was also implemented. The Ministry of Culture and Information manages
Internet information, while the Ministry of Public Security manages the security in Internet
activities.220 The General Department of Post and Telecommunications was responsible for
ensuring the implementation of the decree across Vietnam. Meanwhile, every ministry and
agency was ordered to make and announce a list of Internet application services which are
banned or not yet permitted for provision and use.221
The same year also brought a decree stating the managerial capability must keep pace with
development requirements and at the same time there must be synchronous measures to
prevent acts of taking advantage of Internet to affect the national security or breach the ethics,
customs and fine traditions.222
In 2002, the MIC released a decision requiring a permit to establish a website or provide
information onto [the] Internet.223 It went further in explicitly banning certain information from
being posted online including harms to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity
of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and to incite people to oppose the State of the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam.224 The prime minister also released a circular that reportedly instructed
Internet cafe owners to monitor customers online activities in order to prevent them from
accessing state secrets or reactionary documents.225
218

Id.
Id.
220
Id.
221
Id.
222
Id.
223
Decision No. 27/2002/QD-BVHTT, Ministry of Culture and Information, Communist Party of Vietnam,
Oct. 10, 2002, available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php
%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=9887.
224
Id.
225
See Testimony of Nguyen Tu Cuong to Congressional Caucus on Vietnam and the Congressional
Human Rights Caucus, Executive Director, Vietnam Helsinki Committee, October 1, 2003, available at
http://forms.house.gov/lofgren/iss_humanrights_viettest3.shtml. See also Stephan Denney, Banned books
and other forms of censrship in Vietnam during 2002, University of California Berkeley, available at
http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~sdenney/vnban.txt.
219

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The following year, the MPT published a decision largely focused on domain name and ASN
management. However, the decision also stated:226
It is strictly forbidden to use Internet resources for the purpose of opposing the State of
the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, disturbing security, economic activities, social order
and safety and breaching the nations fine customs and traditions.

According to Amnesty International, a 2003 directive by the ruling party politburo to the
executive committee of the Vietnamese Veterans Association stated:227
International forces continue to push for the realization of the strategy of peaceful
evolution, in conjunction with a conspiracy to overthrow the socialist government in Viet
Nam by force, to which end they consider peaceful evolution on cultural and ideological
level[s] as a breakthrough. The following activities are most notable: Through such means
as mass media, especially radio, television, the Internet, various information offices of
embassies, so-called press conferences, visits, contacts, seminars.

These limits on free speech were further heightened in 2004. In May 2004, MPT published a
directive titled On Intensifying the Assurance of Safety and Security for Post,
Telecommunication and Internet Information in the New Situation.228 MPT required subunits to
work with the relevant professional units of the Ministry of Public Security in studying
technical solution to satisfy the requirements on assurance of safety and security for
information on telecommunications network and on the Internet.229
The same directive also ordered MPT subagencies and units to, among other things, urgently
stop the provision of services in cases of...opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of
Vietnam and intensify examination and close supervision of activities of internet and
telecommunication service agents; propagate and guide the agents owners to firmly grasp the
States regulations on assurance of information safety and security.230
As a result, MPT published a subsequent directive in July 2004 focused on creating a host of
requirements on Internet cafe owners, called Internet Agents, including posting all of the
content bans promulgated by the government in their cafe and stopping any users violating the
Decision 92/2003/QD-BBCVT, The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Communist Party of
Vietnam, May 26, 2003, available at
http://laws.dongnai.gov.vn/2001_to_2010/2003/200305/200305260001_en/lawdocument_view.
227
See Amnesty International, Socialist Republic of VietNam: Freedom of expression under threat in
cyberspace, November 2003, p. 4, available at
http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA41/037/2003/en/faae623b-d66b-11dd-ab95a13b602c0642/asa410372003en.html (Amnesty Report).
228
Directive No. 06/2004/CT-BBCVT, The Minister of Posts and Telematics, Socialist Republic of
Vietnam, May 7, 2004, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/DispForm.aspx?ID=6232.
229
Id.
230
Id. See also Radio Free Asia, Vietnam Steps Up Internet Monitoring, June 9, 2004, available at
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/138140-20040609.html.
226

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rules.231 This was quickly followed by an announcement from the Ministry of Public Security
creating a special unit to monitor and suppress web sites carrying materials considered as
crimes on the Internet.232
In September 2004, the implementation of the Ordinance on Post and Telecommunications
referenced in the previous section included the following proclamation:233
Telecommunication enterprises shall coordinate with professional units of the Public
Security Ministry in urgently preventing and stopping the provision of services in cases of
using telecommunication and Internet services to instigate violence and riots, infringing
upon national security and opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

By late September, the government had shut down 65 Internet cafes citing the discovery of
hundreds of addresses of pornographic and anti-government Web sites.234
In February 2005, a circular was issued that expanded upon the 2004 directive to place
requirements on Internet cafes and on users.235 Internet cafe owners and customers were now
prohibited from guiding other persons in using support tools to gain access to websites which
are banned...infringing upon ethics and fine traditions and custom; creating websites and/or
organizing forums on the Internet with contents of instructing, enticing or provoking other
persons to commit such acts.236 Furthermore, owners are required to install programs,
facilities and equipment for concentrated management at their enterprises, which are
connected with their agents and satisfy the requirements of management of Internet agency
activities and:237
To use already set up software programs for agent management to store
information on service users, including addresses already accessed, access
time, service type (email, chat, ftp, Telnet, etc.) for 30 days. The storage duration
is counted from the time when information is transmitted from/to servers in
service of information security work of functional agencies.

Directive No. 07/2004/CT-BBCVT, Ministry of Post and Telematics, Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
July 19, 2004, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/Attachments/6231/VB2480449216.doc (Microsoft Word Document). A copy of the posted
regulations can be found at Open Network Initiative , Internet Filtering in Vietnam in 2005-2006: A
Country Study, August 2006, Section 3(C), available at https://opennet.net/studies/vietnam [ONI Study].
232
ONI Study , Section 3(C).
233
Decree No. 160/2004/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Sept.
3, 2004, available at http://vbpl.vn/TW/pages/vbpqen-toanvan.aspx?ItemID=7661.
234
Internet cafes shut in Vietnam for portn, politics, Reuters, Sept. 17, 2004, available at
http://expressindia.indianexpress.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=36235.
235
Joint Circular No. 02/2005/TTLT-BCVT-VHTT-CA-KHDT, Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry
of Home Affairs, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and Ministry of Planning and Investment,
Socialist Republic of Vietnam, July 14, 2005, available at http://vbpl.vn/tw/Pages/vbpqen-toanvan.aspx?
ItemID=6824.
236
Id. See also ONI Study, Section 3(c).
237
Id.
231

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Meanwhile, Internet agents were required to install software to record and transmit user
activities, have users register with ID cards before using the Internet, and maintain a current list
of websites to be blocked.238
In August 2005, a decision from MPT was released that focused on domain name
management. Here, the government once again reiterated the prohibition on using the Internet
for purposes of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, disturbing security,
economy, social order and safety, undermining the nation's fine tradition and custom.239
These efforts subsided somewhat in late 2005 and much of 2006. This can generally be
attributed to the government being in the final phases of joining the World Trade Organization,
hosting the APEC Summit in 2006, and seeking Permanent Normal Trade Relations status with
the United States.240 As Human Rights Watch stated at the time Vietnam is on its best
behavior while its under the international spotlight.241 The timing proved helpful because
blogging became immensely popular in Vietnam around this time.242
With more tolerance for an alternative press, a rash of scandals came about in 2006 including
an embezzlement scandal resulting in the resignation of the Minister of Transportation.243 By
late 2006, Vietnam was reining in the press by arresting the most strident reporters exposing
corruption and publishing a new decree on press restrictions.244 The goal was clearto strictly
limit journalistic activities.245 The regulations included fines for:

Publishing publications with contents distorting historical truths, negating revolutionary


gains, hurting the nation, great public figures or national heroes; slandering or infringing
upon the prestige of agencies or organizations;

Document No. 2520/BBCVT-VT, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Socialist Republic of


Vietnam, December 14, 2005, available at http://thuvienphapluat.vn/archive/Cong-van/Cong-van-2520BBCVT-VT-huong-dan-thuc-hien-TTLT-ve-quan-ly-dai-ly-Internet-vb82135t3.aspx.
239
Decision No. 27/2005/QD-BBCVT, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Communist Party of
Vietnam, December 14, 2005, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/Attachments/6256/VB3110552965.doc (Microsoft Word Document).
240
See e.g. Vietnams WTO membership begins, BBC News, Jan. 11, 2007, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6249705.stm; Vietnam Vows Safe, Comfrotable APEC Summit,
Vietnam News, Feb. 16, 2006, available at http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/news/2006/02/viet-nam-vowssafe-comfortable-apec-summit. See also Rising Dragon, Chapter 6.
241
Human Rights Watch, Vietnam: APEC Summit Should Highliight Rights Abuses, Nov. 16, 2006,
available at http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/11/13/vietnam-apec-summit-should-highlight-rights-abuses.
242
See also Section IV: Facebook.
243
Vietnam ministry hit by scandal, BBC News, April 4, 2006, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4874600.stm. See also Ibp USA, Vietnam Internet and E-Commerce
Investment and Business Guide: Regulations and Opportunities, p. 74, International Business Publications:
2009.
244
Numerous steps were already occurring to ensure that the press focused on the Partys priorities. See
e.g. Rising Dragon, Chapter 7.
245
Decree No. 56/2006/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, June
6, 2006, available at http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=185278.
238

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Failing to report or explain information contents to the state management agency in charge
of press or failing to do so within the prescribed time limit;
Carrying information on mystical stories without citing their reference source;
Propagating bad or superstitious customs and practices.

By 2008, the journalists who reported on the embezzlement scandal were on criminal trial for
abusing democratic freedoms and publishing false information, with one journalist
sentenced to two years in prison.246 Under an environment of rising inflation and increasing
demonstrations, another wave of actions arrived the same year.247 Article 6 of Decree 97
prohibited using the Internet for a multitude of vague reasons including:248
1.a/ Opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, undermining national security
and social order and safety; destroying the all-people great unity bloc; spreading
propaganda on wars of aggression; sowing hatred and conflict between nations, ethnic
groups and religions; spreading propaganda on and inciting violence, obscenity and
debauchery, crime, social evils, superstition; and destroying national fine customs and
traditions;
1.c/ Spreading information that distorts, slanders and hurts the prestige of organizations;
the honor and dignity of citizens.

The decree also places numerous burdens on Internet service providers and any online social
service provider that is established under Vietnamese law.249 Indeed, the MIC stated publicly
that they intended to contact Google and Yahoo to get their assistance in creating the best
and healthiest environment for bloggers.250 The decree was subsequently clarified in a series
of circulars; of most relevance was Circular No. 7, published in December of 2008.
Circular No. 7 applied the prohibition on Internet activities, specified in Article 6, specifically to
bloggers.251 Furthermore, the circular made clear that bloggers were responsible for any
Nga Pham, Vietnam sends journalist to jail, BBC News, Oct. 15, 2008, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7671079.stm; Vietnamese media trial condemnded, BBC News,
Oct. 16, 2008, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7673374.stm.
247
The initiatives of 2008 came on the heels of increased dissatisfaction among the population and
growing instability in the country. In June 2008, inflation in Vietnam had reached 27 percent, and inflation
for rice (a dietary staple) had reached 70 percent; within the first six months of 2008, 500 demonstrations
had already taken place, despite restrictions on the right to strike. In response to the growing instability, a
crisis meeting of the partys Central Committee was called in July. The Vietnam Committee on Human
Rights argues that it was within this context that the party started to intensify controls and repression.
[footnotes omitted] OpenNet Initiative, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2012, available at
https://opennet.net/research/profiles/vietnam.
248
Decree No. 97/2008/N-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Aug.
28, 2008, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/Attachments/6159/31236373.PDF.
249
Id.
250
Vietnam regulator bans subversive blogging, Reuters, Dec. 23, 2008, available at
http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/12/24/us-vietnam-blogs-idUSTRE4BN0DQ20081224.
251
Circular No. 07/2008/TT-BTTTT, Ministry of Information and Communication, Socialist Republic of
Vietnam, December 18, 2008, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
246

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content published on their blog and that using a blog to disseminate[e] press, literary and art
works and publications that violate the press and publication laws was prohibited, regardless,
of whether that came from the blogger or a website visitors comments.252 Social network
services offering blogging capabilities were also required to submit reports to authorities on
anyone using the platform biannually or upon request. U.S. companies were reportedly urged
to participate by Vietnamese authorities.253 These rules were officially guided by the following
desire:254
To encourage the development and use of blogs to help individuals improve their capacity
of interaction on the Internet environment for exchanging and sharing information which is
suitable to Vietnam's fine customs and compliant with laws so as to enrich social life and
increase community unity.

The rules required a new agency to be opened up within the MIC known as the Administration
Agency for Radio, Television, and Electronic Information.255 The Agency has a dedicated
mission to monitor the Internet and notify the relevant authorities of any activity arousing
concern.256 In 2009, a decree was passed mandating fines for Internet providers violating a
litany of rules including failing to supply information on service users using online social
network services, with fines ranging up to 70 million VND ($3,323).257
In late 2009, the National Assembly passed a law further specifying a variety of
telecommunications rules for providers and users. The law once again highlighted the desire to
grow the ICT sector within Vietnam while simultaneously limiting the rights of Internet users
and providers. The latter are required to hand over information on users requested by
competent state agencies under law.258 Meanwhile, users are prohibited from:259

%20QPPL/Attachments/6145/23434370.pdf. See also FreedomHouse, Vietnam, Freedom on the Net


2012, available at http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2012/vietnam (FreedomHouse
Report).
252
Id.
253
FreedomHouse Report; OpenNet Initiative, Vietnam: Google, Yahoo! sought to regulate blogosphere,
Dec. 4, 2008, available at https://opennet.net/blog/2008/12/vietnam-google-yahoo-sought-regulateblogosphere.
254
Circular No. 07/2008/TT-BTTTT, Ministry of Information and Communication, Socialist Republic of
Vietnam, December 18, 2008, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/Attachments/6145/23434370.pdf.
255
See e.g. Ann Binlot, Vietnams Bloggers Face Government Crackdown, Time, Dec. 30, 2008, available
at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1869130,00.html.
256
Geoffrey Cain, Bloggers the new revels in Vietnam, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 14, 2008,
available at http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Bloggers-the-new-rebels-in-Vietnam-3180398.php.
257
Decree No. 28/2009/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, March
20, 2009, available at http://moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=10665.
258
Telecom Law No. 41/2009/QH12, National Assembly, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nov. 23, 2009,
available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=10472.
259
Id.

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Taking advantage of telecommunications activities to act against the State of the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam; causing harm to the national security and social order and safety;
undermining the all-people great solidarity; propagating war of aggression: sowing hatred
and conflict among nations, ethnicities and religions: propagating and disparaging violence,
debauchery, depraved lifestyle, crimes, social evils and superstitious practices; breaching
the nation's fine customs and traditions.

The MIC went about detailing the implementation of the 2009 law. In 2011, the prime minister
issued a decree focusing on a variety of areas.260 In particular, the rules specified the personal
information a subscriber must submit to a telecommunications provider prior to receiving
service including identity cards or passports. The decree goes on to state that the information
will be used to serve the national security, social order and safety, among other things.261
In 2010, the Hanoi local government took action to further oversee Internet activity by requiring
Hanoi Internet providers at retail locations, such as Internet cafes, to install the Internet
Service Retailers Management Software on their domain server.262 Users were also
reminded of the restrictions on their Internet usage included in decree number 97 of 2008. It is
assumed that this software allows the government to monitor and potentially control user
activities in these locations.263
Another decree was issued in 2011 expanding the governments power to fine journalistic
activities [and] publications.264 The fines range from between 500 thousand VND ($23.74) to 40
million VND ($1,899). Infractions span a wide variety of activities including using a pseudonym;
not referencing sources directly; presenting misleading headlines; providing a detailed
description of violent or obscene acts; propagating bad practices, or distributing content
online that contains social evils.265 The government also granted licensed journalists
numerous rights that were not afforded to bloggers and other non-government licensed
journalists. These included fines for those insulting the honor and dignity of journalists and
threatening journalists or impeding the supply of information to the media organizations and
citizens.266

Decree No. 25/2011/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Communist Party of Vietnam, April 6,
2011, available at http://www.moj.gov.vn/vbpq/en/Lists/Vn%20bn%20php%20lut/View_Detail.aspx?
ItemID=10579.
261
Id.
262
Decision No. 15/2010/QD-UBND, The Peoples Committee, Hanoi City, Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
April 16, 2010, available at http://www.viettan.org/Decision-by-the-Hanoi-People-s.html. See also Section
IV: Digital Surveillance.
263
See e.g. Chloe Albanesius, Google Criticizes Vietnams Net-Sniffing App, PCMag, June 11, 2010,
available at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2364950,00.asp.
264
Decree No. 02/2011/ND-CP, THe Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Jan.
6, 2011, available at http://mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn%20QPPL/DispForm.aspx?ID=7733.
265
Id.
266
Id.
260

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A subsequent directive in 2012, based on the above decree, took additional actions against
bloggers.267 Some of the countrys most influential blogs were cited as posting information
considered slanderous, fabricated, distorted, untrue and were deemed to be engaging in a
wicked plot by enemy forces.268 The government went so far as to include quotes from
ordinary people about the dangers of blogs in a press release about the action.269 The
content of the blogs was political, focusing on internal party politics and diplomatic relations
with China. The prime minister ordered state employees not to read or distribute the
information on these blogs and called on the Ministry of Public Security and the MIC to
investigate and prosecute the bloggers who were writing under pseudonyms, a common
practice in Vietnam.270
Fittingly, the specific blogs cited by the directive quickly experienced a surge in traffic,
demonstrating the number of Vietnamese citizens who have taken steps to circumvent Internet
blocking attempts by the government.271 These circumvention methods are described in more
detail in Section IV, under Circumvention and Anti-Censorship Methods.
In 2012, the Vietnamese government also published a draft decree updating decree 97 from
2008.272 The focus was clearly on increasing their control on Internet surveillance and
censorship as blogging continued to be successful as a means of finding non-state-approved
information.273 The draft decree proposed to require users to use their real names, further
restrict Internet activities, force all news websites to be approved, and mandate that all foreign
Internet companies establish data centers and local offices within Vietnam in order to continue
operating.274
Directive 7169/VPCP-NC, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Sept. 12, 2012, available at
http://vanban.chinhphu.vn/portal/page/portal/chinhphu/hethongvanban%3Fclass_id%3D2%26mode
%3Ddetail%26document_id%3D163586&usg=ALkJrhjBn-O-BPhZmQlIXI9ZWXzQnpkHLg.
268
Id. The blogs cited are http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/, http://quanlambao.blogspot.com/, and
http://www.biendong.net/.
269
Chris Brummitt, Vietnam struggles to crack down on activist blogs, Associated Press, Feb. 11, 2010,
available at http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-technology/vietnam-struggles-to-crack-down-onactivist-blogs-20100211-nupw.html.
270
See e.g. Reporters Without Borders, Vietnam, The Enemies of Internet, 2012, available at
http://surveillance.rsf.org/en/vietnam/ (RSF Report).
271
Chris Brummitt, Under fire, a Vietnamese blogger vows dissent, Associated Press, Sept. 13, 2012,
available at http://finance.yahoo.com/news/under-fire-vietnamese-blogger-vows-dissent-093346513.html;
David Brown, Blog wars underline Vietnam power struggle, Sept 20, 2012, available at
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/NI20Ae02.html.
272
See e.g. Draft Decree on Information Technology Services, Version 3.8, The Prime Minister of
Government, Communist Party of Vietnam, available at
http://www.eurochamvn.org/sites/default/files/Latest%20Draft%20Decree%20on%20IT%20services%20%20ENG.doc (Microsoft Word Document).
273
Cat Barton, Vietnam bloggers battle tightening censorship, AFP, May 10, 2012, available at
http://www.afp.com/en/node/105747/.
274
See e.g. Thao Nguyen, Vietnams Internet Governance Policies: Opportunities for Developing a
Competitive Digital Economy, Harvard Kennedy School, May 2013, M-RCBG Associate Working Paper
Series, No. 16, pp. 10-11, available at
http://www.hks.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/Nguyen_Vietnam%20Governance
267

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While much of the decree language was concerning, the proposed obligations for foreign
Internet companies received the most attention. This was partly because of the clear effort by
the government to force these entities to abide by Vietnamese law and cooperate with their
efforts to monitor and control users Internet activities.
With their privileged position and government ownership, the Party typically consults first with
the large domestic companies, such as VNPT and Viettel, prior to a draft being made available
for public comment. Of course, this access helps mitigate any regulatory burdens being placed
on them and defines the scope of discussion before it occurs. In many cases, soliciting public
comment is considered more of a formality than an active effort to integrate the feedback
received.275
Nevertheless, during the period allotted for public comment, many entities submitted
comments opposing the language. Subsequent drafts were met with a similar reception.
Comments opposing numerous components of the draft decree were submitted by the United
States,276 the European Parliament,277 the European Chamber of Commerce,278 the American
Chamber of Commerce279 and the Asia Internet Coalition280 (including Google and Facebook),
among many others.281 The Global Network Initiative, a coalition of technology companies,
academics, investors, and human rights defenders, stated the draft decree posed a significant
threat to free expression and privacy, obliging Internet companies and other providers of

%20Report_ENG.pdf.
275
Interview with an in-country Vietnam IT specialist who frequently represents the views of foreignowned companies.
276
Comments of the Government of the United States, Embassy of the United States of America in
Vietnam, June 6, 2012, available at
http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/2012_Vietnam_UScomments.pdf; Statement of the
Government of the United States, Embassy of the United States of America in Vietnam, Aug. 6, 2013,
available at http://vietnam.usembassy.gov/pr080613.html.
277
European Parliament, Vietnam, in particular freedom of expression, Resolution, April 18, 2013,
available at
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201304/20130429ATT65436/20130429ATT65436
EN.pdf.
278
European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, Position Paper on Draft decree of IT Services, May 25,
2012, available at http://www.eurochamvn.org/sites/default/files/Position%20paper-IT%20Services
%20draft%20decree-May%202012_0.pdf.
279
Comments of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, Draft Decree on Information
Technology Services, April 25, 2012, available at http://www.amchamvietnam.com/download/1766.
280
Asia Internet Coalition, Comments on the Decree 72 on the Management, Provision and Use of
Internet Services and Information Content Online, Nov. 26, 2013, available at
http://www.asiainternetcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/VN72.pdf.
281
See e.g. Thao Nguyen, Vietnams Internet Governance Policies: Opportunities for Developing a
Competitive Digital Economy, M-RCBG Associate Workign Paper Series, No. 16, Harvard Kennedy
School, May 2013, pp. 9-12, available at
http://www.hks.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/Nguyen_Vietnam%20Governance
%20Report_ENG.pdf.

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information to Internet users in Vietnam to cooperate with the government in enforcing


overbroad provisions that are inconsistent with international human rights standards.282
With the chorus of opposition, high-ranking Party officials became more involved in the
process and numerous additional drafts were circulated and occasionally publicly released for
comment. Despite the updated drafts, the language arousing most concern largely remained
intact. The final draft reportedly no longer required establishing local offices and servers, but
rigid guidelines remained attempting to control the kind of content that can be hosted on the
Internet and restricting Internet activity including the sharing of news stories online.283
Despite some positive indications that the final language would improve or not be implemented
at all, decree 72 was published on July 15, 2013. It still included language limiting Internet
users to providing or exchanging personal information and prohibiting the dissemination of
news. The decree also included the controversial language requiring foreign Internet
companies to maintain servers within the country. A full English translation of the decree is
provided in Appendix VI. A group of 630 intellectuals and professionals issued a statement to
protest the decree and request that implementation be delayed.284 However, it was made
effective on September 1, 2013 as planned and became subject to global criticism.285
While the Vietnamese government almost immediately disputed the languages global
interpretation and will likely selectively enforce the provisions, these harmful efforts at digital
control stand to do much more than just lower foreign IT investment in Vietnam.286 By
Shawn W. Crispin, In Asia, Three Nations Clip Once-Budding Online Freedom, Committee to Protect
Journalists, Feb. 16, 2013, available at https://www.cpj.org/2013/02/attacks-on-the-press-internetopening-is-shrinking.php.
283
Vietnams Decree Silent On Local Offices for Foreign Internet Companies, Radio Free Asia, July 19,
2013, available at http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/decree-07192013185826.html; Decree
targets online freedoms in Vietnam, Committee to Protect Journalists, July 22, 2013, available at
https://www.cpj.org/2013/07/decree-targets-online-freedoms-in-vietnam.php; Vietnam to clamp down on
social media news postings, AFP, Aug. 1, 2013, avaialble at
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/08/01/vietnam-to-clamp-down-on-social-media-news-postings/.
284
Vietnamese Intellectuals Protest Controversial Decree 72, Voice of America, Aug. 22, 2013,
available at http://www.voanews.com/content/vietnamese-intellectuals-protest-controversial-decree72/1735202.html. For the full text, see Bauxite Vietnam, Sept. 16, 2013, available at
http://boxitvn.blogspot.de/2013/08/tuyen-bo-nghi-inh-so-722013n-cp-vi-pham.html.
285
See e.g. Phil Muncaster, Vietnam crimps online freedom of speech with Decree 72, The Register,
Sept. 3, 2013, available at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/03/vietnam_censorship_law_decree_72/.
For a detailed summary of the reaction, see Catch-72: Vietnams Newest Internet Restrictions Explode
Across the Web, Vietmeme, Aug. 31, 2013, available at http://vietmeme.net/2013/08/31/catch-72vietnams-newest-internet-restrictions-explode-across-the-web.
286
Nguyen Phuong Linh, Vietnam rebuffs criticism of misunderstood web decree, Reuters, Aug. 6,
2013, available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/06/net-us-vietnam-internetidUSBRE9750HR20130806. See also Le Tri, There is a misunderstanding about Decree 72, Infonet,
Aug. 1, 2013, available at http://infonet.vn/co-su-hieu-nham-ve-nghi-dinh-72-post92609.info;
VNExpress, The individual pages on Facebook are not synthesized information, July 31, 2013, available
at http://sohoa.vnexpress.net/tin-tuc/doi-song-so/cac-trang-ca-nhan-tren-facebook-khong-duoc-tong-hop282

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attempting to require companies to establish servers in Vietnam, the government is moving


away from the trend of global cloud services and towards the domestic Intranet floated by
other restrictive countries.287
Another draft decree was also publicized around the same time as decree 72, though gaining
much less attention, and focused on the sanctioning of administrative violations in the
management, provision and use of Internet services and online information.288 Many of the
activities mentioned mirror those that are also criminal offenses but are not serious enough for
criminal prosecution.289 The draft decree was intended to update the 2009 decree sanctioning
Internet providers that is described above. Substantial criticism was received from many of the
same entities opposing decree 72.290
In November 2013, a subsequent draft of the decree was passed. The lengthy updated decree
increases the fines for a variety of IT-related activities on both organizations and individuals.
This includes acts such as spreading reactionary ideology and conducting propaganda
against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, among others.291 These actions only further widen
the gap between how the government wants Vietnamese citizens to use the Internet and how
they use it in practice.

thong-tin-2858226.html.
287
See e.g. James Ball and Benjamin Gottlieb, Iran preparing internal version of Internet, The
Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-0919/world/35496978_1_huawei-iranian-activists-iranian-government.
288
See e.g. BLOGGERS AND NETIZENS BEHIND BARS. Restrictions on Internet Freedom in Vietnam,
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, pp. 11-12, available at
http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/bloggers_report_in_english.pdf (Behind Bars Report).
289
Decree No. 174/2013/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nov.
13, 2013, available at http://thuvienphapluat.vn/archive/Nghi-dinh-174-2013-ND-CP-quy-dinh-xu-phat-vipham-hanh-chinh-buu-chinh-vien-thong-cong-nghe-thong-tin-vb213651.aspx.
Asia Internet Coalition, Comments on the Decree of the sanctioning of administrative violations in the
management, provision and use of Internet services and online information, Feb. 26, 2013, available at
http://www.asiainternetcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/AIC-Comments-on-Vietnams-Draft-Lawon-the-sanctioning-of-Admin-Violations-in-the-Mgt-Provision-and-Use-of-Internet-Svs-and-Online-Info2nd-submission.pdf.
291
Decree No. 174/2013/ND-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Article 65, Nov. 13, 2013, available at http://thuvienphapluat.vn/archive/Nghi-dinh-174-2013-ND-CP-quydinh-xu-phat-vi-pham-hanh-chinh-buu-chinh-vien-thong-cong-nghe-thong-tin-vb213651.aspx. See also
Vietnam announces big fines for social media propaganda, Reuters, Nov. 27, 2013, available at
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/27/vietnam-internet-idUSL4N0JC2KN20131127.
290

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Section IV: Internet Freedom


Digital Surveillance
The Vietnamese government has a long history of monitoring citizens activities. The Internet
first became available in Vietnam in late 1997.292 As the Internet began growing in popularity,
efforts were increased to expand surveillance into this new communication medium. Dr. Mai
Liem Truc, former Deputy Minister of Post and Telecommunications, is widely credited with
being one of the key people who paved the way for the boom of the Internet in Vietnam.293 In
a retrospective of that period, Truc noted that the Internet is a legitimate concern due to the
danger of hostile forces to use the internet in Vietnam to sabotage the country and the need to
control the enormous amount of information.294
As noted above, Internet surveillance intensified in 2001.295 The primary purpose of the
associated decree was to extend Vietnams press and publication laws to the Internet.296 This
offered numerous means to surveil and take action against any content or content generator.
Soon after, multiple cyber dissidents were being arrested under the criminal code on spying
charges for having published online articles containing information judged to be
'dangerous.297
By 2004, the Vietnamese government ordered agencies and ministries to "tighten state
management to prevent the exploitation and the circulation of bad and poisonous information
on the Internet.298 According to the OpenNet Initiative, after a period of relative openness and
tolerance of independent voices and criticism in 2006...the government clamped down on what
it considers unlawful usage of the Internet.299 The mechanisms available to authorities only
further increased as additional rules were passed over subsequent years.300 At present,
Vietnamese authorities have greater capabilities than ever to spy on citizens Internet and
mobile activities.
For a more detailed history, see International Telecommunication Union, Vietnam Internet Case
Study, March 2002, pp. 18-19, available at http://www.itu.int/asean2001/reports/material/VNM
%20CS.pdf; Bjorn Surborg, On-line with the people in line: Internet development and flexible control of
the net in Vietnam, Geoforum, Volume 39, pp. 347-9, 2008, available at
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718507001078.
293
Tech journalists choose top ten ICT persons of decade, VietNamNet Bridge, Feb. 3, 2010, available
at http://www.lookatvietnam.com/2010/02/tech-journalists-choose-top-ten-ict-persons-of-decade.html.
294
Witness the history of the Internet and the unforgettable imprint, VNExpress, May 24, 2007, available
at http://sohoa.vnexpress.net/tin-tuc/doi-song-so/nhan-chung-lich-su-internet-va-nhung-dau-an-kho-quen1517030.html.
295
Twelve Defenders Report, p. 8.
296
OpenNet Initiative, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2012, available at https://opennet.net/research/profiles/vietnam.
297
Twelve Defenders Report, p. 8.
298
See Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press 2004: Vietnam, March 14, 2005, available
at https://www.cpj.org/2005/03/attacks-on-the-press-2004-vietnam.php.
299
OpenNet Initiative, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2012, available at https://opennet.net/research/profiles/vietnam.
300
See Section III: Freedom of Speech for a complete review.
292

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Methods of Surveillance
Given the nature of surveillance, it is difficult to determine the extent of capabilities available to
Vietnamese authorities. Nevertheless, a variety of tactics have been revealed. These activities
can range all the way from covert surveillance to severing a users connection. By 2004, the
government had set up a cyber-police force whose job is to monitor Internet content in all
form, all publications, including press reports, blogs and commentaries.301 This coincided with
multiple directives that obligated Internet providers, cyber cafe owners, and end users to take
numerous steps to monitor and report any digital actions deemed illegal.302
By 2009, the government required all phone subscribers to register their personal information
with their mobile operator (a rule was already in place for wireline subscribers). A primary goal
was ensuring that a name was attached to every mobile number in the country.303 The following
year, Hanoi Internet providers were required to install special software known as the Internet
Service Retailers Management Software.304 Beyond installing the software that transmits all
activity to unknown third parties, the Internet agents were required to store names, identity
cards or passports, and detailed Internet service logs for 30 days and to provide access to all
information upon request.305
According to a 2011 report from Reporters Without Borders, a variety of additional tactics are
employed to surveil specific individuals including Man In The Middle password retrieval,
hacking attacks [and] mobile phone monitoring.306 Other sources cite physical activities like inperson surveillance, long-range microphones, house arrest, and severing telephone and
Internet connections, not to mention physical assault, threats to individuals and family

See e.g. Behind Bars Report, p. 10.


These are detailed in Section III: Freedom of Speech. See also OpenNet, Internet Filtering in Vietnam,
Section C(3), available at https://opennet.net/studies/vietnam; Bjorn Surborg, On-line with the people in
line: Internet development and flexible control of the net in Vietnam, Geoforum, Volume 39, p. 353
(2008), available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718507001078.
303
As is commonly the case, this law was passed much more easily than it was implemented. See e.g.
Section I: SIM and Point of Sale Process.
304
See e.g. Internet censorship tightening in Vietnam, AsiaNews.it, June 22, 2010, available at
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Internet-censorship-tightening-in-Vietnam-18746.html; Robert McMillan,
Activists worry about a new Green Dam in Vietnam, IDG News Service, June 4, 2010, available at
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9177703/Activists_worry_about_a_new_Green_Dam_in_Vietnam.
305
Document No. 2520/BBCVT-VT, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Socialist Republic of
Vietnam, Dec. 14, 2005, available at http://thuvienphapluat.vn/archive/Cong-van/Cong-van-2520-BBCVTVT-huong-dan-thuc-hien-TTLT-ve-quan-ly-dai-ly-Internet-vb82135t3.aspx. See also Internet Cafe, VDC,
available at http://lab.vdc3.vn/index.php?
option=com_content&task=disp_service&id_content=954&Itemid=221&sec_id=765&id=765; Vietnam
Posts and Telecommunications Group, (Under Circular 02/2005/TTLT-BCVT-VHTT-CA-KHDT) (For
public Internet Dealer), Nov. 20, 2010, available at
http://www.vnpt.vn/Local_VNPT/Binh_Duong/NewsDetail/tabid/422/newsid/843/seo/-THEO-QUY-DINHTHONG-TU-022005TTLT-BCVT-VHTT-CA-KHDTDanh-cho-Dai-ly-Internet-cong-cong-/Default.aspx.
306
RSF Report.
301
302

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members and searches of property.307 A more covert method comes via a surveillance tool
from FinFisher called FinSpy.308
The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto found strong evidence of a Vietnamese FinSpy
Mobile Campaign.309 The surveillance software markets itself as being capable of:310

Recording common communications like voice calls, SMS/MMS and emails


Live surveillance through silent calls
File download (contacts, calendar, pictures, files)
Country tracing of target (GPS and cell ID)
Full recording of all BlackBerry Messenger communications
Covert communications with headquarters

Advanced surveillance tools such as FinSpy provide capabilities that allow the government
not only to uncover bloggers real names, but to identify everyone in their networks.311 In
many cases, the surveillance is meant to be undetectable. As a result, activists learn of these
activities after being followed by police soon after communicating via their mobile device.312
Numerous individuals we met took steps to shroud their activities by utilizing a variety of
tactics including frequent swapping of SIM cards and the evasion of physical surveillance.
Nevertheless, on the ground events can quickly limit the effectiveness of these activities.313

Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks appear to be occurring with increasing frequency in Vietnam. While the origins of
these activities are notoriously difficult to determine, a growing body of evidence suggests the
Vietnamese government orchestrates a global campaign of cyber warfare against those
This includes phishing and malware campaigns described in more detail below. See also U.S.
Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights and Labor, Vietnam - Internet freedom, available at
http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper; Twelve Defenders Report.
308
See http://www.finfisher.com/.
309
Morgan Marquis-Boire, Bill Marczak, Claudio Guarnieri, and John Scott-Railton, You Only Click
Twice: FinFishers Global Proliferation, Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, March 13, 2013, available at
https://citizenlab.org/2013/03/you-only-click-twice-finfishers-global-proliferation-2/.
310
Morgan Marquis-Boire and Bill Marczak, The SmartPhone Who Loved Me: FinFisher Goes Mobile?,
Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, Aug. 29, 2012, available at https://citizenlab.org/2012/08/thesmartphone-who-loved-me-finfisher-goes-mobile/.
311
RSF Report.
312
Meetings with numerous activists.
313
During the visit, a peaceful multi city rally took place, organized by activists to draw attention to human
rights abuses in Vietnam. This peaceful gathering resulted in the arrest of two Saigon-based activists.
When family and friends gathered at the police station, demanding the activists' release, they were met
with violence. Police thugs beat them, and the young sister of one of the imprisoned activists lost three
teeth. Instead of retreating, the first reaction of the victims and the supporting community was to post
information of the event online, on Facebook and elsewhereto spread the true story in the face of
violence and intimidation.
307

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deemed unfriendly to the government. With rampant surveillance and repression, it is logical
that the government would expand into attacking netizens via their online platforms.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the Vietnamese government maintains a reported
stable of 80,000 public opinion shapers nationwide, resulting in vigilant oversight of relevant
Internet outlets, not to mention dissemination of government talking points.314 Indeed, a
reported 1,000 of these cyber-officers focus on blogs and social networks.315 Not only do
they attempt to shape discussion, they also track and report on online netizens. This appears
to be one of the numerous ways that help determine who these attacks target online.
While these cyber-officers were officially recognized in 2004, the activities of government
orchestrated cyber attackers continue to exist without official confirmation. However, by 2006,
a pro-democracy website based in Vietnam experienced attacks with evidence showing it
came from within Vietnam and numerous observers suspecting the government.316
By late 2009, the coordinated attacks became more numerous and sophisticated. A popular
website critical of a planned bauxite mining operation was attacked via a distributed denial of
service attack (DDoS). A denial of service attack attempts to flood the host site with traffic that
make it unavailable to end users. This was but one of a variety of methods used to disrupt the
websites effort.317
Around the same time, the Vietnamese Professionals Societys website was hacked and a
trojan horse was included in a Vietnamese keyboard input program hosted on the site called
VPSKeys. Google discovered this exploit and found that the altered program was used both
to spy on their owners as well as participate in DDoS attacks against blogs containing
messages of political dissent. Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to
bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam.318 A report by Viet Tan, an organization whose goal is to
establish a democracy in Vietnam, notes that many other sensitive digital destinations,

314

Id.
Id. See also Tuan Dao, T chc nhm chuyn gia bt chin trn Internet, Lao Dong, Jan. 9, 2013,
available at http://laodong.com.vn/chinh-tri/to-chuc-nhom-chuyen-gia-but-chien-tren-internet-98582.bld.
316
See Hackers Bring Down Vietnam Democracy Web Site, Radio Free Asia, Jan. 3, 2006, available at
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam_website-20060103.html.
317
See Hal Roberts, Ethan Zuckerman, and John Palfrey, Distributed Denial of Service Attacks and Other
Digital Control Measures in Asia, Access Contested: Security, Identity and Resistance in Asian Cyberspace,
Chapter 7 - Interconnected Contests, The MIT Press: 2011, available at http://access.opennet.net/wpcontent/uploads/2011/12/accesscontested-chapter-07.pdf. See also Section IV: Circumvention and AntiCensorship Methods.
318
Neel Mehta, The chilling effects of malware, Google Blog, March 30, 2010, available at
http://googleonlinesecurity.blogspot.com/2010/03/chilling-effects-of-malware.html. See also John Ruwitch,
Web attacks hit Vietnam bauxite activists: Google, Reuters, April 2, 2010, available at
http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/04/02/us-vietnam-google-idUSTRE62U0TM20100402; George Kurtz,
Vietnamese Speakers Targeted In Cyberattack, McAfee, March 30, 2010, available at
http://archive.is/3GL6Y.
315

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including their own website, received similar treatment during this time frame.319 Viet Tan
notes:320
Viettan.org is generally firewalled in Vietnam. Occasionally, internet users in
Vietnam have reported that the firewall had been lifted and they could access the
Viet Tan website. This opening of the gates usually coincides with a denial of
service attack from Vietnamone sure sign that the hacking attacks are
sponsored by Vietnamese government authorities.

The following month, the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Public Securitys General
Department of Security publicly stated that the department had destroyed 300 bad internet
web pages and individual blogs.321 One Vietnamese blogger described the effects as some
websites lost their domain names, some lost all the contents and all contents were replaced by
articles praising ho chi minh and the communist party, some websites were completely
inaccessible and the administrators could not access them.322 Indeed, the U.S. State
Department noted that in 2010 at least 50 Web sites critical of the government and hosted
overseas were targeted by distributed denial-of-service attacks.323 Some bloggers were able
to capture information about the hackers and publicly released the IP addresses of those
involved.324
Later that year, a security firm discovered another DDoS attack was systematically attacking
Web sites that post blogs or forums containing content critical of the Vietnamese Communist
Party.325 The OpenNet Initiative noted that the botnet deployment coincided with Vietnam
Blogger Day, a coordinated online action to celebrate the release of Dieu Cay, a blogger and
political prisoner.326

Viet Tan, Denial of Service: Cyberattacks by the Vietnamese Government, April 27, 2010, available
at http://www.viettan.org/Denial-of-Service-Cyberattacks-by.html.
320
Id. This unblocking occurred again during a DDOS attack on Viettan.org the following year. See Viet
Tan, Vietnamese authorities orchestrate DDoS attack against Viet Tan website, Aug. 22, 2011, available
at http://www.viettan.org/Vietnamese-authorities-orchestrate.html.
321
Vietnam: Stop Cyber Attacks Against Online Critics, Human Rights Watch, May 26, 2010, available
at http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/05/26/vietnam-stop-cyber-attacks-against-online-critics.
322
Radio Free Asia, Vietnamese Hackers Admitted Hacking Activities, May 19, 2010,
http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/programs/ReadingBlogs/VN-police-general-confesses-state-s-hacking-cbs-web-and-blog-NHien-05192010161301.html [translated to English by RFA staff].
323
U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2010: Vietnam, p. 24, 2011,
available at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/160484.pdf.
324
Vietnamese Hackers Admitted Hacking Activities, Radio Free Asia, May 19, 2010, available at
http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/programs/ReadingBlogs/VN-police-general-confesses-state-s-hacking-cbs-web-and-blog-NHien-05192010161301.html [translated to English by RFA staff].
325
Ellen Messmer, Vecebot botnet strikes Vietnamese anti-communist blogs, NetworkWorld, Nov. 1,
2010, available at http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/110110-vietnam-vecebot-botnet.html. See also
SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit, Vecebot Trojan Analysis, Dell SecureWorks, Oct. 28, 2010,
available at http://www.secureworks.com/cyber-threat-intelligence/threats/vecebot/.
326
OpenNet Initiative, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2012, available at https://opennet.net/research/profiles/vietnam.
319

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Cyber attacks continued in 2011, including on one of the mirror sites created on the bauxite
issue and Viet Tan.327 A high-profile citizen-run political website, Dan Lam Bao, experienced
multiple attacks timed near significant political or human rights events.328 The attacks were so
severe that the site was forced to switch blogging platforms.329 Indeed, Reporters without
Borders notes that passwords are hacked and connection speeds slowed down on days
when dissidents are arrested or go on trial.330
The following year, the prime minister issued a directive ordering the Ministry of Public Security
to identify those affiliated with Dan Lam Bao and other websites. The blogs were said to be
part of a wicked plot orchestrated by hostile forces.331 In 2013, a submission to the U.N. for
the Universal Periodic Review of Vietnam by numerous groups detailed a variety of methods
used for cyber attacks. These include phishing, malware, fake domain attacks, account
takeovers, and website defacement.332
All indications suggest that 2014 will be no different. Early this year, it was revealed that in late
2013 numerous high-profile organizations were sent targeted malware including the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Associated Press.333 A University of Toronto Citizen Lab
researcher who analyzed the global attack noted that while past attacks focused primarily on
voices of dissent, this represents an escalation against people who report on those voices.334
Clearly, the Vietnamese government is devoting extensive resources in order to attack nearly
any digital destination or individual it deems a threat.

Prosecution of Human Rights Activists


As we have detailed, the repression of digital activism in Vietnam has existed for an extensive
period. Another form this repression takes is the arrest and prosecution of human rights
activists. Reporters without Borders notes that the official justification in all of these cases is
always cooperation with reactionary organizations based abroad, attempt to overthrow the
327

FreedomHouse Report.
We also received information suggesting that the same attacks occurred on Quan Lam Bao, a blog
focused on government corruption. See also David Brown, Blog wars underline Vietnam power struggle,
Asia Times, Sept. 20, 2012, available at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/NI20Ae02.html.
329
Danlambao Editorial Team, Danlambao: We will not be silenced, Committee to Protect Journalists,
Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://cpj.org/blog/2012/09/danlambao-we-will-not-be-silenced.php.
330
RSF Report.
331
See Document No. 7169/VPCP-NC: Handling information content against the Party and State,
Baolephai, Sept. 12, 2012, available at http://baolephai.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/cong-van-so7169vpcp-nc-xu-ly-thong-tin-co-noi-dung-chong-dang-nha-nuoc/; Behind Bars Report, p. 20.
332
PEN International, English PEN, ARTICLE 19 and Access, Submission to the UN Universal Periodic
Review of Vietnam, June 17, 2013, pp. 4-5, available at
https://s3.amazonaws.com/access.3cdn.net/ccd086a9cc3a49064c_dzm6i6feg.pdf.
333
Eva Galperin and Morgan Marquis-Boire, Vietnamese Malware Gets Very Personal, Electronic
Frontier Foundaiton, Jan. 19, 2014, available at https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/01/vietnamesemalware-gets-personal.
334
Chris Brummitt, Vietnam Cyber Troops Take Fight to US, France, Associated Press, Jan. 23, 2014,
available at http://www.scientificcomputing.com/news/2014/01/vietnam-cyber-troops-take-fight-us-france.
328

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government, or anti-government propaganda. Corruption and tax fraud allegations are also
frequently aimed at journalists and bloggers.335
In 2003, Human Rights Watch made a call to action noting at least a half dozen arrests over the
previous year for an individuals Internet activities. One individuals alleged infraction was to
translate and disseminate via email an article titled What is Democracy? which he
downloaded from the website of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam.336
A subsequent report by Amnesty International included the details of numerous individuals
charge sheets. The specifics included the monitoring done by the Internet service providers
detailing the contents of specific emails sent to others, not to mention phone calls and faxes.337
In 2006, two bloggers were sentenced to a combined six and a half years in prison as a
result.338 While several digital dissidents were released from jail this same year, it is generally
considered that Vietnam was attempting to generate global goodwill due to being in the final
phases of joining the World Trade Organization, hosting the APEC Summit, and seeking
Permanent Normal Trade Relations status with the United States.339 Furthermore, many of
those released were nonetheless subject to house arrest, harassment and intimidation.340
These online repression efforts continued to be successful in the following years, despite
bloggers use of pseudonyms.341
A 2008 directive ordered blogging platforms to provide the details of specific accounts and
individuals upon government request. That same year, a circular was published restricting the
subject matter that blogs can address to strictly personal information. Due to the most popular
platforms being outside the country, the practical effect of these efforts was limited, despite
requests for cooperation.342 Accordingly, bloggers felt that their activities were growing at too

335

RSF Report
See Vietnams Crackdown on Cyber-dissidents, Human Rights Watch, June 18, 2003, available at
http://www.hrw.org/news/2003/06/16/vietnams-crackdown-cyber-dissidents. See also Bjorn Surborg, Online with the people in line: Internet development and flexible control of the net in Vietnam, Geoforum,
Volume 39, p. 354 (2008), available at
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718507001078.
337
Amnesty Report.
338
RSF Report.
339
See e.g. Vietnams WTO membership begins, BBC News, Jan. 11, 2007, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6249705.stm; Vietnam Vows Safe, Comfortable APEC Summit,
Vietnam News, Feb. 16, 2006, available at http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/news/2006/02/viet-nam-vowssafe-comfortable-apec-summit; FreedomHouse Report. See also Rising Dragon, Chapter 6.
340
Twelve Defenders Report, p. 8.
341
See RSF Report; Ann Binlot, Vietnams Bloggers Face Government Crackdown, Time, Dec. 30, 2008,
available at http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1869130,00.html; Another Blogger Charged
With Subversion Faces Death Penalty, Reporters Without Borders, Dec. 23, 2009, available at
http://en.rsf.org/vietnam-another-blogger-charged-with-23-12-2009,35329.
342
FreedomHouse Report.
336

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fast a rate to be censored. One prominent blogger stated that the government worries about
the Internet, but they can't stop it.343
The Vietnamese government redoubled their efforts in recent years. This began in the lead up
to the Communist Party Congress in early 2011 with a number of bloggers being detained and
jailed.344 In July 2012, Reporters without Borders highlighted the many individuals jailed from a
new crackdown on Vietnams bloggers and human rights activists.345 That same month saw
the mother of a Vietnamese blogger set herself on fire to protest her daughter facing charges
of anti-state propaganda.346 The blogger was subsequently sentenced to ten years in prison.347
The same worrying trend continued in 2013. In early January, 14 activists, including 8
bloggers and netizens were sentenced to terms ranging from 3 to 13 years in prison a
collective total of 113 years behind bars.348 Numerous blogger arrests occurred through the
spring, and by October an Internet user was sentenced to 15 months of house arrest for
starting a Facebook campaign to free his brother. This marked the first prosecution specifically
related to Facebook use.349 The Committee to Protect Journalists stated that Vietnam has
intensified its grip on old and new media through a campaign of censorship, surveillance, and
arrests and prosecutions, noting that in each of the past several years, authorities have
cracked down harder on critical journalists, focusing heavily on those who work online.350
Beyond imprisonment, the Vietnamese government also employs physical intimidation and
harassment. In January 2013, a female blogger was detained by police who ordered state
nurses to conduct a vaginal search because they suspected she was hiding illegal exhibits.351
In March, another netizen was subjected to intensive interrogations for two and half days
Chris Brummitt, Vietnam struggles to crack down on activist blogs, Associated Press, Feb. 11, 2010,
available at http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-technology/vietnam-struggles-to-crack-down-onactivist-blogs-20100211-nupw.html.
344
See e.g. FreedomHouse Report; Behind Bars Report, p. 13-15.
345
Arrests, Surveillance and Intimidation Used to Prevent Destabilization, Reporters Without Borders,
July 18, 2012, available at http://en.rsf.org/vietnam-arrests-surveillance-and-18-07-2012,43061.html. See
also Committee to Protect Journalists, Vietnam, Attacks on the Press, available at
http://cpj.org/2013/02/attacks-on-the-press-in-2012-vietnam.php; Vietnam Human Rights Network,
Report on Human Rights in Vietnam 2012, pp. 11-13, available at
http://www.vninfos.com/archives/dossiers/VNHRN%20Report_04_2012.pdf; Behind Bars Report, pp. 13-21,
Annex 3.
346
Vietnam prime minister targets anti-government blogs, BBC News, Sept. 13, 2012, available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19582374.
347
L.H., Bloggers flogged, The Economist, Oct. 4, 2012, available at
http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2012/10/free-speech-vietnam.
348
RSF Report
349
Vietnam court sentences Facebook campaigner to house arrest, Reuters, Oct. 29, 2013, available at
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/29/us-vietnam-court-idUSBRE99S0DP20131029; Committee to
Protest Journalists, Vietnamese blogger sentenced for Facebook post, Oct. 29, 2013, available at
https://cpj.org/2013/10/vietnamese-blogger-sentenced-for-facebook-post.php.
350
Committee to Protest Journalists, Vietnam intensifies crackdown on bloggers, July 2, 2013, available
at http://cpj.org/2013/07/vietnam-intensifies-crackdown-on-bloggers.php.
343

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focused on articles downloaded from and posted to the Internet.352 A prominent blogger under
house arrest noted the security agency sends officers to threaten the families of bloggers and
democratic activists. They also pressure their employers, so most dissidents lose their jobs.353
Despite this repression, in June 2013, more than 100 Vietnamese bloggers used their real
names to sign a petition calling for the repeal of Article 258 (abusing democratic freedoms), the
most common charge against bloggers.354
The petition did not appear to influence government officials with more than sixty activists,
many of them bloggers, being imprisoned and countless others surveilled, harassed or
otherwise repressed by the end of 2013.355 There are no signs that these government activities
will abate with continued cyber attacks and at least eight more activists and bloggers arrested
already in 2014.356 While many digital activists continue their efforts, some are self-censoring to
avoid the brutal tactics used by the government to silence any criticism, while others attempt
to find more creative forms of expression.357
Hanois official blogger hard at work, UPI, Jan. 14, 2013, available at
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/01/14/Hanois-official-bloggers-hard-at-work/UPI54471358139840/; Shawn W. Crispin, Vietnamese blogger reports sexual assault by officials,
Committee to Protect Journalists, Jan. 7 2013, available at https://cpj.org/blog/2013/01/vietnameseblogger-reports-sexual-assault-by-offic.php.
352
Open letter to the Government of Vietnam, International Federation for Human Rights, March 22,
2013, available at http://www.fidh.org/en/asia/vietnam/Open-letter-to-the-Government-of-13069.
353
Jak Phillips, The Civil Disobedience of the 21st Century: How Vietnamese Bloggers Evade Controls,
Time, Sept. 30, 2013, available at http://world.time.com/2013/09/30/the-civil-disobedience-of-the-21stcentury-how-vietnamese-bloggers-evade-controls/?iid=gs-main-lead.
354
Shawn Crispin, Vietnam Tightens the Squeeze on Its Bloggers, Committee to Protect Journalists,
February 2014, available at https://cpj.org/2014/02/attacks-on-the-press-vietnam-analysis.php.
355
Vietnam activist jailed for Facebook posts, AFP, Oct. 29, 2013, available at
http://www.news24.com/World/News/Vietnam-activist-jailed-for-Facebook-posts-20131029; Vietnam to
clamp down on social media news postings, AFP, Aug. 1, 2013, available at
http://technology.inquirer.net/27635/vietnam-to-clamp-down-on-social-media-news-postings; Chris
Brummitt, Vietnam sends blogger to prison for political posts, Associated Press, March 4, 2014,
available at http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_25269723/vietnam-sends-blogger-prisoncritical-posts.
356
Vietnam arrests 2 bloggers in new crackdown, Associated Press, May 6, 2014, available at
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/vietnam-arrests-2-dissident-bloggers; Vietnam: Arrests of Internet Activists
Escalate, Human Rights Watch, May 7, 2014, available at http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/07/vietnamarrests-internet-activists-escalate; Brad Johnson, Vietnam Continues to Arrest Internet Activists, Liberty
Voice, May 7, 2014, available at http://guardianlv.com/2014/05/vietnam-continues-to-arrest-internetactivists/. See also Shawn Crispin, Vietnam Tightens the Squeeze on Its Bloggers, Committee to Protect
Journalists, February 2014, available at https://www.cpj.org/2014/02/attacks-on-the-press-vietnamanalysis.php.
357
See e.g. Cat Barton, Online satire sparks change in communist Vietnam, AFP, April 8, 2014, available
at http://www.ucanews.com/news/online-satire-sparks-change-in-communist-vietnam/70665; Ben
Valentine, Cultural Specificity and Conceptions of Privacy: An Interview with Vietmeme (Part 3 of 3), The
Civic Beat, Jan. 22, 2014, available at http://reader.thecivicbeat.com/2014/01/cultural-specificity-and-thivietnamese-web-an-interview-with-vi etmeme-part-3-of-3/.
351

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Censorship Online
Since the introduction of the Internet, the Vietnamese government has been keen to monitor
user activities and impose controls. One of the first known instances came in August 2002
when the Ministry of Culture and Information shut down a domestic website, TTVonline, that
focused on issues like corruption and foreign affairs. The Ministry claimed they hadnt properly
applied for a license to run the website and had violated certain press laws.358 The active
blocking of a website was reserved for those websites hosted outside Vietnam. In 2003,
Human Rights Watch estimated that the government blocked approximately two thousand
websites.359 In September 2005, a state-controlled media outlet quoted the Director of the
Internetwork Security Centre at the Hanoi University of Technology that Vietnam ISPs are likely
to have network security software installed free-of-charge to prevent users from accessing
harmful web-sites.360

Facebook
Perhaps the most well-known case of government blocking is that of Facebook. For many
years, the most popular online platform was Yahoo 360, launched in March of 2005.361 The
blogging platform quickly became popular among Vietnamese citizens, reaching a reported
user base of 15 million.362 This led blogging to become a primary means of criticizing the
government.363 In 2008, Facebook began allowing users to translate the platform. By the end of
the year, the site was fully localized in Vietnamese and had attracted nearly 100,000 users.364
With such a large diaspora population, Facebook offered an effective means for Vietnamese to
connect with family and friends overseas.
By May 2009, Yahoo had begun shutting down the 360 platform.365 Facebooks popularity grew
to an estimated 270,000 users around that time with many migrating to the platform.366 Soon
Amnesty Report, p. 18.
Id. at p. 16, fn. 44.
360
Bjorn Surborg, On-line with the people in line: Internet development and flexible control of the net in
Vietnam, Geoforum, Volume 39, p. 352 (2008), available at
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718507001078.
361
Evan Hansen, Yahoo 360 takes spin through blogosphere, CNET News, March 16, 2005, available
at http://news.cnet.com/Yahoo-360-takes-spin-through-blogosphere/2100-1038_3-5619309.html.
362
Aryeh Sternberg, Vietnam online: Then and now, iMedia Connection, Jan. 5, 2010, available at
http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_login.aspx?id=25480; Look At Vietnam, Is Yahoo 360o letting
Vietnamese users down?, VietNamNet Bridge, Feb. 26, 2009, available at
http://www.lookatvietnam.com/2009/02/is-yahoo-360o-letting-vietnamese-users-down.html.
363
See e.g. Geoffrey Cain, Bloggers the new rebels in Vietnam, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 14, 2008,
available at http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Bloggers-the-new-rebels-in-Vietnam-3180398.php.
364
Duy Hoang & Trinh Nguyen, Facebook and Civil Disobedience in Vietnam, Viet Tan, March 4, 2011,
available at http://www.viettan.org/IMG/pdf/Viet_Tan__Facebook_and_Civil_Disobedience_in_Vietnam.pdf.
365
Dong Ngo, Yahoo 360 to close on July 13, CNET News, May 29, 2009, available at
http://www.cnet.com/news/yahoo-360-to-close-on-july-13/.
366
See e.g. Ben Lorica, Active Facebook Users By Country & Region, OReilly Research, June 17, 2009,
Slide 13, available at http://www.slideshare.net/oreillymedia/active-facebook-users-by-country-region358
359

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after, the government began blocking the site. The initial blocking is commonly attributed to an
activist-created Facebook page protesting a multi billion dollar bauxite mine in central
Vietnam.367 An August 2009 order, found circulating on the Internet and subsequently verified
by sources within ISPs and by Viet Tan, forced local ISPs to block Facebook.368 By November,
the blocking was implemented, but not before more than a million Vietnamese had joined
Facebook.369
During most periods, the blocking of Facebook was performed at the DNS level. A block of a
website at the DNS level offers a variety of readily available means for continued access. A
user can simply change the DNS settings or take a wide variety of other options (more on this
topic below). The sudden unavailability of Facebook led to millions of users taking these steps,
simultaneously giving them access to a multitude of other blocked sites.
When the blocking began, Vietnamese Internet provider FPT claimed they were working to
solve a fault blocking connections to Facebooks US servers pointing to DNS malfunctions.370
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked about the Facebook block in December. Their
response was as follows:371
In Vietnam, the State facilitates the development of internet. Internet is strongly growing with
22 million internet users (over 25% of the population and higher than the average in Asia) and
more than 4 million bloggers. Like in other countries, Vietnams laws prohibit the use of
internet into undermining our traditions, customs, social ethics, public order and national
security. This is in line with international conventions on human rights, particularly the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Recently, many internet users in Viet Nam have expressed their resentment at several online
social websites being taken advantage of in disseminating information against the State of the
Socialist Republic of Viet Nam that violate Vietnams laws, threaten information security, and
adversely affect internet users. Relevant agencies will consider the severity of the violation to
adopt appropriate measures in accordance with the laws.

june-2007; Shawn W. Crispin, Vietnams press freedom shrinks despite open economy, Committee to
Protect Journalists, Sept. 19, 2012, available at https://www.cpj.org/reports/2012/09/vietnams-pressfreedom-shrinks-despite-open-economy.php.
367
See e.g. Helen Clark, Facebook in Vietnam: Why the block doesnt work, GlobalPost, Oct. 4, 2010,
available at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/vietnam/100928/facebook-internet-china-press-freedom.
368
Duy Hoang & Trinh Nguyen, Facebook and Civil Disobedience in Vietnam, Viet Tan, March 4, 2011,
available at http://www.viettan.org/IMG/pdf/Viet_Tan__Facebook_and_Civil_Disobedience_in_Vietnam.pdf.
369
Aryeh Sternberg, Vietnam online: Then and now, iMedia Connection, Jan. 5, 2010, available at
http://www.imediaconnection.com/article_login.aspx?id=25480.
370
Vivien Marsh, Vietnam government denies blocking networking site, BBC, Nov. 20, 2009, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8370762.stm; FPT tr li v vic truy cp Facebook, BBC, Nov.
20, 2009, available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/vietnamese/vietnam/2009/11/09%201120_facebook_update.shtml.
371
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Regular Press Briefing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The
13th Regular Press Conference, Dec. 3, 2009, available at
http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_baochi/pbnfn/ns091211112423/view.

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The government solution to this resentment was to develop its own social networking
platform. While Zing Me, a non-state-created Vietnamese social networking site, had seen
significant growth since its launch in 2009, its users were largely limited to gamers and the
very young.372 Through the state-owned Vietnam Multimedia Corporation, the government
launched Go.vn in May 2010.
The Go.vn network required users to provide their government I.D. numbers and full names.373
While this clearly allows for far more extensive monitoring by the Vietnamese government, it
simultaneously acted as a deterrent to adoption, as many Facebook users maintain some
anonymity by utilizing nicknames or pseudonyms.374 Within a couple of years, Go.vn rebranded
itself as an entertainment network in order to avoid direct competition with Facebook.375
With Facebooks growing popularity, the government took additional steps to prevent access,
typically in politically sensitive times. As the difficulty of circumvention increased, a growing
level of Vietnamese users sought out new solutions.376 Even phone manufacturers were
undeterred, with Nokia using Facebook in their local advertising.377
By March 2011, the site that adversely affected Internet users was estimated to have 2.6
million Vietnamese users.378 By 2012, the head of VTC, a Vietnamese government-owned
entity, stated that the blocking of overseas websites was simply due to being significantly
more costly than domestic connections and not generating the revenue that comes from
incumbent services.379 He stated further that 70-80 percent of the international bandwidth
runs through Facebook and YouTube and these services do not generate profits for the
ISPs.380

Id. See also Willis Wee, Zing Me is twice as big as Facebook in Vietnam, TechInAsia, Feb. 22, 2011,
available at http://www.techinasia.com/zing-me-facebook-vietnam/.
373
See e.g. James Hoookway, In Vietnam, State Friends You, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 4, 2010,
availalbe at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748703305004575503561540612900.
374
The same IT expert noted a variety of technical problems that affected Facebook in the months
following the launch of Go.vn.
375
Buu Dien, Vietnamese social networks short of breath in the race with Facebook, VietNamNet
Bridge, Feb. 27, 2013, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/67366/vietnamese-socialnetworksshort-of-breathin-the-race-with-facebook.html.
376
See Section IV: Circumvention and Anti-Censorship Methods.
377
H.C., Banned, maybe. For some., The Economist, Nov. 10, 2010, available at
http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2010/11/facebook_vietnam.
378
Anh-Minh Do, Did Twitter just get blocked in Vietnam?, TechInAsia, Nov. 20, 2013, available at
http://www.techinasia.com/twitter-blocked-in-vietnam/.
379
Vn cn li gii thch ti sao nh mng chn Facebook, n Chim Vit, Jan. 10, 2012, available at
http://www.danchimviet.info/archives/49885/v%E1%BA%ABn-c%E1%BA%A7n-l%E1%BB%9Di-gi
%E1%BA%A3i-thich-t%E1%BA%A1i-sao-nha-m%E1%BA%A1ng-ch%E1%BA%B7n-facebook/2012/01.
380
Id.
372

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By September 2013, more than 22 million Facebook users existed in Vietnam.381 The U.S. State
Departments 2013 report on Vietnams human rights practices stated that the blocking of
Facebook was less common than in previous years and remained inconsistent among ISPs,
areas, and times.382 One recent survey found that 85 percent of Vietnamese said Facebook
was the site they used most for dating.383
By early 2014, a Facebook page calling for the resignation of the Minister of Health received
more than 100,000 signatures and the uproar rippled into a state-controlled media outlet which
echoed the call.384 This was a demonstration of Facebooks potential impact on Vietnamese
society. According to on-the-ground observations recorded last year, Facebook now appears
to be largely unblocked within Vietnam and officially entered the market this year by
purchasing local advertising.385 Indeed, according to Alexa, it is the third most-visited site in
Vietnam.386 By May 2014, 25 million Vietnamese were on Facebook.387 The issues currently
facing authorities seem focused more on activities within Facebook rather than on access to
Facebook itself.388

Over-The-Top Mobile Apps


Another high-profile area where Internet censorship has occurred is with so-called over-the-top
(OTT) apps. These mobile apps provide free alternatives to mobile operator services like phone
calls and text messages using a phones 3G data connection or Wi-Fi. A variety of recent
options have emerged such as WhatsApp and Viber.389 This is in addition to existing options

Anh-Minh Do, Vietnams Facebook penetration hits over 70% adding 14 million users in one year,
TechInAsia, Sept. 25, 2013 available at http://www.techinasia.com/vietnams-facebook-penetration-hits70-adding-14-million-users-year/
382
U.S. State Department, Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2013 - Vietnam, Bureau of
381

Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, available at


http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2013&dlid=220244.
Michelle Jones, Facebook Inc (FB) Becomes Most Popular Dating Site In Emerging Markets,
ValueWalk, Feb. 13, 2014, available at http://www.valuewalk.com/2014/02/facebook-inc-fb-becomesmost-popular-dating-site/.
384
Jessica McKenzie, 7 Things You Didnt Know About Vietnams Net, TechPresident, Feb. 4, 2014,
available at https://techpresident.com/news/wegov/24723/seven-things-you-didnt-know-about-vietnamsnet.
385
Testing performed through the OONI platform, described in the subsequent section, and utilizing open
proxies. See SGT, Facebook officially enters Vietnam, VietNamNet Bridge, Jan. 27, 2014, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/94575/facebook-officially-enters-vietnam.html.
386
Top Sites in Vietnam, Alexa, 2014, available at http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/VN.
387
Facebook has 25 million users in Vietnam, VietNamNet Bridge, May 25, 2014, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/103044/facebook-has-25-million-users-in-vietnam.html.
388
Vietnam struggling to handle rumors on Facebook, Tuoitrenews, April 14, 2014, available at
http://tuoitrenews.vn/society/19000/vietnam-struggling-to-handle-rumors-on-facebook.
389
With WeChat being owned by Tencent, a Chinese company, Vietnamese users have generally shied
away from adopting it. See e.g. Smartphone Chat App Wars in Vietnam Reveal Tough Market for China,
Vietmeme, April 25, 2013, available at http://vietmeme.net/2013/04/25/smartphone-chat-app-wars/.
383

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such as Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, and Facebook Messenger. Reportedly, the most popular
OTT apps in Vietnam are Viber, Zalo, KakaoTalk, and LINE.390
Press reports suggest Viber and Zalo have the highest adoption rates among Vietnamese
users.391 Viber also has global focus with nearly 300 million users worldwide. It was recently
acquired by a Japanese company, Rakuten.392 Zalo was created by VNG Corporation, a
Vietnamese company that created the Zing Me platform noted above.393 Both apps have more
than 10 million registered users in Vietnam, adding the majority of those in the past year.394
Yahoo! Messenger has a registered user base of 17 million and Facebook Messenger more
than 8 million, but it is not clear how frequently the platforms are being utilized.395
The rapid growth of these OTT apps have caused great concern among Vietnamese mobile
operators. Last year, the operators claimed that revenue declines were a result of reduced
voice and text-messaging revenue due to OTT services.396 These declines only grow with the
ability of users to utilize open Wi-Fi networks and avoid mobile data costs altogether. Mobile
operator market leader Viettel stated [w]e will lose 40-50 percent of our revenue if all of our 40
million customers use Viber instead of traditional call and text.397 With these stated
implications, mobile operators have taken a number of steps to limit these revenue declines.
Mobile operators have explored plans to acquire existing OTT apps or build their own.398
Beyond these more formal strategies to limit the impact of OTT services, numerous reports
Anh-Minh Do, Chat apps like Whatsapp, Line and KakaoTalk are cool but Viber is the real dark
horse, Oct. 30, 2013, available at http://www.techinasia.com/viber-at-startup-asia-jakarta-november2013/.
391
Anh-Minh Do, Viber reports 12 million user in Vietnam, but a local rival is surprisingly close behind,
TechInAsia, March 21, 2014, available at http://www.techinasia.com/zalo-10-million-viber-12-millionvietnam/. See also Newley Purnell and Vu Trong Khanh, Vietnams Messaging App Zalo Focuses on
Home Turf, Wasll Street Journal, May 7, 2014, available at
http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/05/07/vietnams-messaging-app-zalo-focuses-on-home-turf/.
392
See e.g. Hiroko Tabuchi, As War for Web Messaging Users Grows, Rakuten Buys Viber for $900
Million, New York Times, Feb. 14, 2014, available at
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/rakutenjapanese-e-commerce-giant-to-buy-viber-for-900-million/.
393
See e.g. Anh-Minh Do, Zalo: Vietnams Flagship Mobile Messaging App Has Arrived, TechInAsia, Feb.
5, 2013, available at http://www.techinasia.com/zalo-vietnams-flagship-mobile-messaging-app-arrived/.
394
Anh-Minh Do, Viber reports 12 million user in Vietnam, but a local rival is surprisingly close behind,
TechInAsia, March 21, 2014, available at http://www.techinasia.com/zalo-10-million-viber-12-millionvietnam/. See also Buu Dien, OTT Conflict Field: Zalo Combats Opposite Viber and Line, Greeting
Vietnam, Dec. 25, 2013, available at http://greetingvietnam.com/technology/ott-battle-field-zalo-combatsagainst-viber-and-line.html.
395
OTT services spark tension with major telcos, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 26, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90023/ott-services-spark-tension-with-major-telcos.html.
396
Id.
397
Now Vietnam wants to manage chat apps, and media say ban possible, Reuters, Aug. 20, 2013,
available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/20/us-vietnam-internet-idUSBRE97J0JE20130820.
See also Mobile operators face the heat, Vietnam News, June 10, 2013, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/240521/mobile-operators-face-the-heat.html.
390

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suggest that mobile operators may be interfering with the traffic of popular OTT services. In
meetings with IT professionals and knowledgeable sources, we were given indications that
OTT apps have technical problems wherein users are disconnected for a few seconds.399 This
strategy allows mobile operators to proclaim they are not blocking usage since it is only a
disruption and is due to a lower quality of service.
The head of VTC, a Vietnamese government-owned multimedia company, stated in 2012 that
when the demand for profit-making services such as Voice and IP increases, the ISPs will
deprioritize free services that take up bandwidth.400 Adding that even services like Internet
TV, one of VTC's priority projects, has to be deprioritized compared to services like Voice over
IP which can generate cash immediately.401
In the face of Viettel customer complaints that Viber suddenly became moody in July of last
year, Viettel stated it does not take the actions of blocking the VoIP apps such as Skype, Viber
or Whatsapp, and that traditional phone conversations are just better quality.402 One user
stated [i]t is unfair for millions of mobile phone users in Vietnam who cannot use OTT apps like
in other countries in the world.403 One of the smaller OTT apps in Vietnam, LINE, took the
strategy of attempting to partner with Vietnamese mobile operators directly.404 A more recent
Vietnamese OTT upstart, Btalk, touted that they had found a means to escape from the
interception by mobile network operators preventing them from blocking or interfering with the
app.405
The operators have also looked for assistance from the government. Some have suggested
that the government-approved mobile data price increases noted in Section I were a response

See D.K., Carriers Tentatively Sign up OTT services Market, Vietnam Business Forum, May 5, 2014,
available at http://vccinews.com/news_detail.asp?news_id=30238; Kim Chi, Mobile network operators
move noisily to OTT service market, VietNamNet Bridge, March 14, 2014, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/97406/mobile-network-operators-move-noisily-to-ott-servicemarket.html.
399
According to these in-country sources, ping tests have demonstrated these delays. No data was
provided to bolster these claims.
400
Vn cn li gii thch ti sao nh mng chn Facebook, n Chim Vit, Jan. 10, 2012, available at
http://www.danchimviet.info/archives/49885/v%E1%BA%ABn-c%E1%BA%A7n-l%E1%BB%9Di-gi
%E1%BA%A3i-thich-t%E1%BA%A1i-sao-nha-m%E1%BA%A1ng-ch%E1%BA%B7n-facebook/2012/01.
401
Id.
402
GDVN, How to deal with the OTT wave?, VietNamNet Bridge, July 27, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/80017/how-to-deal-with-the-ott-wave-.html.
403
K. Chi, Mobile Operators accused of blocking OTT services, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 13, 2013,
available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/89071/mobile-network-operators-accused-ofblocking-ott-services.html.
404
Anh-Minh Do, LINE is Getting Into Bed with Vietnams Telcos, TechInAsia, March 12, 2013, available
at http://www.techinasia.com/line-bed-vietnams-telcos/.
405
K. Chi, Will Btalk replace Viber as most popular OTT app for Vietnamese, VietNamNet Bridge, May
1, 2014, available at http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/101032/will-btalk-replace-viber-as-mostpopular-ott-app-for-vietnamese-.html.
398

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to operator concerns.406 Nevertheless, the more direct government reaction to mobile


operators concerns came in the form of draft regulations to manage OTT apps.407 The
regulations would reportedly focus on mechanisms, policies and solutions to be implemented
in 2014 that lower the impact on the efficiency of telecom businesses, while ensuring the rights
of service users and companies.408
It is not clear whether or when these rules will be implemented, but the attention being paid
suggests the government may be concerned with operator treatment of OTT apps, possibly
recognizing that this treatment limits investment in the burgeoning domestic mobile app
sector.409 A common theme in these blocking attempts is whether the broad economic harms
outweigh the perceived societal benefits.

Observing Network Interference


As noted above, government censorship of the Internet has occurred since it was first
introduced in Vietnam. In light of this environment, numerous tests for blocked websites have
been performed to detect and log observations of network interference. This testing can be
very useful in better understanding the governments priorities. For instance, the OpenNet
Initiative found that while the government claims to prevent youngsters from unhealthy sites,
pornographic content is largely unblocked as compared with websites discussing issues such
as democracy, religion, or human rights.410 Indeed, the U.S. State Department noted that:411
State-owned ISPs routinely blocked Vietnamese-language websites within the country
when they contained content criticizing the CPV or promoting political reform. The
government also filtered Vietnamese-language websites operating outside of the country,
particularly those that criticized the government or contained negative news stories about
Vietnam.

Anh-Minh Do, Fearing Chat Apps, Vietnams Telcos Hike Prices, TechInAsia, April 3, 2013, available
at http://www.techinasia.com/fearing-chat-apps-vietnams-telcos-hike-prices/; Vietnamese operators hike
3G data plan prices, telecompaper, April 8, 2013, available at
http://www.telecompaper.com/news/vietnamese-operators-hike-3g-data-plan-prices935742.
407
OTT services spark tension with major telcos, VietNamNet Bridge, Nov. 26, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/90023/ott-services-spark-tension-with-major-telcos.html. See
also Anh-Minh Do, Reality check: Vietnam is NOT banning chat apps, TechInAsia, Aug. 23, 2013,
available at http://www.techinasia.com/reality-check-vietnam-banning-chat-apps/; Telcos instructed to
work alongside OTT firms, Vietnamplus, Nov. 6, 2013, available at
http://en.vietnamplus.vn/Home/Telcos-instructed-to-work-alongside-OTT-firms/201311/41417.vnplus.
408
VNS, Ministry to manage OTT services, VietNam News, Dec. 7, 2013, available at
http://vietnamnews.vn/economy/248632/ministry-to-manage-ott-services.html.
409
See e.g. GDVN, How to deal with the OTT wave?, VietNamNet Bridge, July 27, 2013, available at
http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/science-it/80017/how-to-deal-with-the-ott-wave-.html.
410
Vietnams online censors target politics not porn, says study, AFP, Aug. 11, 2006, available at
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2006/08/10/1154803020358.html.
411
U.S. State Department, Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2013 - Vietnam, Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, available at
http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2013&dlid=220244.
406

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This section seeks to build on the pre-existing body of knowledge created by the OpenNet
Initiative in testing performed in 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2012.412 During May 2013, OTFsupported researchers conducted 113,187 network tests in 22 locations on multiple mobile
and wireline networks. A total of 6,832 URLs were tested: ONIs global list and local list, a
combination of internationally relevant and popular websites along with websites specific to
Vietnams political and social context; an amendment of updated sites within the ONI context;
and finally a list of Vietnam URLs tested by Herdict users.413 Observation results were obtained
by conducting a series OONI-probe (OONI) network tests with the URL lists. These results
identified noticeable Domain Name System (DNS) interference within Vietnam during May
2013.
Technical Summary of Censorship Observations
In order to determine the type of DNS interference in place in Vietnam, two core OONI tests
were relied on. The first, is a DNS consistency test performing DNS queries to the local
resolvers obtained by DHCP in Vietnam and a known good control resolver (Googles
anycasted DNS 8.8.8.8) via the Tor network.414 If the two results do not match, the test
performs a reverse DNS lookup on the first address (A record) of both sets and checks to see if
they both resolve to the same name. The second is a test to see if DNS responses were
spoofed.415 The DNS spoof test sends DNS queries to an IP address that is known not to run a
DNS server. In our tests, we sent requests to 8.8.8.1. With the presence of a DNS response,
spoofing is revealed.
DNS analysis from observations reveals that out of 6,832 domains tested within Vietnam, 250
domains were observed to be affected by one of three DNS response pollution techniques.416
Two of these techniques effectively block access to websites. The third technique, DNS
hijacking, could allow the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to monitor or potentially manipulate
the communications of users visiting affected domains.
Three DNS pollution techniques were observed to be in active use in Vietnam: false DNS
responses (A records) that direct users to 127.0.0.1 (localhost), DNS responses with RCODE:2
Server Failure that falsely tells the user the domain is not available, and DNS injection
response, which is a form of DNS hijacking that can allow the provider to monitor users visiting
affected domains. A total of 181 domains received a false DNS response for network provider
AS24176 (NETNAM-AS-AP NetNam Company in Hanoi). 417 A total of 151 domains received a
See Irene Poetranto, Update on threats to freedom of expression online in Vietnam, OpenNet
Initiative, Sept. 10, 2012, available at https://opennet.net/blog/2012/09/update-threats-freedomexpression-online-vietnam.
413
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Herdict, 2014, available at https://www.herdict.org.
414
See OONI-probe DNS Consistency Specification, Jan. 30, 2013, available at
https://github.com/TheTorProject/ooni-spec/blob/master/test-specs/ts-002-dnsconsistency.md.
415
See ONNI-probe DNS Spoof Test Specification, Sept. 10, 2013, available at
https://github.com/TheTorProject/ooni-spec/blob/master/test-specs/ts-005-dnsspoof.md.
416
A full list of censored domains can be found in Appendix I.
417
In this section, all network providers are represented by their unique autonomous system number
(ASN). A unique ASN is allocated to each autonomous system (AS) for use in Border Gateway Protocol
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DNS response with RCODE:2 Server Failure for network provider AS7552 (VIETEL-AS-AP), and
16 domains for network provider AS45899 (VNNIC-ASBLOCK-VN / VNPT). Interestingly, the
RCODE:2 Server Fail response is a previously unobserved technique to block access to a
domain. From the 250 domains affected by DNS interference only 86 are blocked
simultaneously in AS24176, AS45899, and AS7552. Further, provider AS24173 (NETNAM-ASAP NetNam Company in Hanoi) is the only ASN observed to be deploying DNS injection while
also not actively engaging in censorship.

127.0.0.1 response

SERVFAIL

DNS injection

AS24176

181

n/a

Not tested

AS7552

n/a

151

No

AS45899

n/a

16

No

AS24173

n/a

n/a

Yes

Blocked Websites of Interest


All of the tested ISPs were found to block similar types of content with noticeable overlap in
the websites they blocked. In general, content found blocked was Vietnam-specific, including
critical political blogs, news sites, and sites of domestic and international NGOs. Also
noticeable, the vast majority of blocked websites are hosted outside of Vietnam.
There remain a number of websites blocked due to their association with imprisoned bloggers.
The following is from ONIs 2012 findings, found also to be true from this report's findings:418
The blog of Paulus Le Son (http://paulusleson.wordpress.com) was found
blocked on Viettel and VNPT. Independent news site Dan Chim Viet
(http://www.danchimviet.info), for which imprisoned blogger Lu Van Bay had
written, was blocked on Viettel and FPT. Vietnam Redemptorist News
(http://www.chuacuuthe.com/), a site that had featured contributions from
arrested bloggers Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, and Nguyen Van Duyet, was
found blocked on Viettel and FPT. Environmental blog Bauxite Vietnam
(http://www.boxitvn.net), for which imprisoned blogger Nong Hung Anh wrote,
was found blocked on FPT and Viettel.

Other blocked citizen journalists, bloggers, and civil society websites included:
http://xuandienhannom.blogspot.com, http://diendanctm.blogspot.com,
http://anhbasam.wordpress.com, http://caunhattan.wordpress.com, http://danluan.org, and
http://hienphapvietnam.org.
(BGP) routing. AS numbers are important because the ASN uniquely identifies each network on the
Internet.
418
See Irene Poetranto, Update on threats to freedom of expression online in Vietnam, OpenNet
Initiative, Sept. 10, 2012, available at https://opennet.net/blog/2012/09/update-threats-freedomexpression-online-vietnam.

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Tests also found indigenous and religious group websites blocked, including:
http://www.montagnards.org, http://chuacuuthe.com, and http://hoahao.org.
Opposition parties and democracy advocates websites blocked included: http://viettan.org,
http://dangvidanvietnam.org, http://thangtien.de, http://khoi8406vn.blogspot.com,
http://lequocquan.blogspot.com, and http://www.caotraonhanban.org. Also blocked were antiregime websites hosted overseas including: http://www.tinparis.net,
http://www.vietlandnews.net, http://huongduongtxd.com, http://hqvnch.net and
http://tamthucviet.com.
A number of overseas Vietnamese news outlets were also blocked, including: http://sbtn.net,
http://nguoi-viet.com, http://nguoivietboston.com and http://radiochantroimoi.com. Tests also
confirmed that several international news sites were blocked, including: http://www.rfa.org,
http://www.rfi.fr, and http://www.voanews.com. Also blocked were several international human
rights organizations, including: http://hrw.org, http://www.freedomhouse.org, and
http://www.persecution.org.
A seemly random block is http://arts399.tripod.com, which happens to be the personal
website, last updated in 2005, of an artist in Europe. Then there is http://www.bet365.com, a
large United Kingdom based gambling company. A full list of blocked sites is available in
Appendix I.

Censorship is Disruptive to Infrastructure


While the Vietnamese ISPs appear to, in general, use the same approach to filtering, these
results demonstrate significant inconsistencies in implementation across different service
providers, and even within the same networks. The observation results demonstrate that the
Vietnamese censorship apparatus is primarily interested in restricting access to content related
to political expression, religious beliefs, and independent media, and to restrict the
dissemination of circumvention tools. Additionally, networks associated with businesses
appear to be significantly exempted from censorship. However, within the sample only 10
percent of sites blocked on one ISP are blocked across the three providers tested.
Tampering with DNS is Bad
Censorship through interception and manipulation of domain name resolution has been widely
condemned by international professional organizations as a violation of the standard operating
principles of the Internet and as potentially incurring security risks. Researchers have
documented instances where the international interdependence of networks has exposed
users to the filtering regimes of other countries, and instances of the brief filtering of sites like
Facebook in Cambodia are rumored to have been linked to upstream issues in Vietnam.419
Evidence of the technical infrastructure collected during the tests performed further

See Mong Palatino, Why was Facebook Blocked in Cambodia?, Global Voices Online, Aug. 14, 2013,
available at http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2013/08/15/why-was-facebook-blocked-in-cambodia/.
419

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demonstrates the Vietnamese censorship regime to be haphazard in nature, creating


inconsistent responses even on the same connection.
This infrastructure design has significant implications for the nature and granularity of
censorship, in addition to the previously referenced security principles, and for initiatives to
provide secure access to the Vietnamese public. Censorship through DNS tends to be a
departure from the approach adopted from the vendors of basic content-filtering systems,
which generally monitor for attempts to access illicit content through web requests instead of
name resolution.
DNS tampering is a blunt-force instrument, blocking access to the site in its entirety instead of
restricting access to specific pages. Therefore, as the network was observed, if the Vietnamese
authorities wished to block access to single pagesuch as an individual Wikipedia article
utilizing only DNS tampering, they would have to block access to the whole website. There are
proven censorship methods that are much more targeted and widely in use. Such systems rely
on Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to identify individual users visiting offending websites and
then use URL blocking for restricting access to specific sections of websites or IP blocking and
TCP reset packets to block access to websites on a case-by-case basis. Examples include
countries utilizing Bluecoat devices and censorship in China.420
Attempts to resolve prohibited domains on the VNPT-owned VinaPhone network, administered
by Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group, would evoke inconsistent and unclear
behaviors. Upon evaluation, it appears that for such domains, the local DNS of VinaPhone
falsifies the authority of the DNS record, directing the Authoritative Name Server upstream to a
DNS server administered by the Vietnam Data Communication Company (VDC), another
subsidiary of VNPT.
This activity could be occurring manually on the part of the VinaPhone administrators, or be the
result of their own services mirroring upstream censorship by the VNPT, and is likely intended
to facilitate some centralized administration of the filtering. In either case, the request will then
recurse upward. The VDCs DNS server does not appear to be fully aware of the extent to
which VinaPhone hands over control for DNS resolution or which response is being requested
from the VinaPhone network. In the former case, where the VDC server does not know to
assert control and refuse the connection (and is nonrecursive), the recursion fails and the local
DNS then returns to the user with a SRV FAIL error code.
At the time of writing, the VDCs server was internationally queryable, allowing some testing
from outside of the country. When the server is aware, it appears that the VDC censorship of
DNS either returns the invalid, localhost IP of 127.0.0.1 or an address on a web-hosting
See The Citizen Lab, Planet Blue Coat: Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools,
University of Toronto, Jan. 15, 2013, available at https://citizenlab.org/2013/01/planet-blue-coat-mappingglobal-censorship-and-surveillance-tools/; Richard Clayton, Steven J. Murdoch, and Robert N. M.
Watson, Ignoring the Great Firewall of China, University of Cambridge, Jun. 27, 2006, available at
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rnc1/ignoring.pdf.
420

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network associated with the VDC. The valid address used to hijack requests is unresponsive to
requests. However, it would be easy for the VDC to leverage this in order to conduct man-inthe-middle attacks. Absent a responsive host, both addresses serve the same result of
directing a users browser to nowhere and triggering an error. Social media and online forum
discussions reinforce findings on both patterns, and lend evidence that this inconsistency has
existed for at least two years.421
Control vs. Growth: The ISP Balancing Act
Given the struggle to reconcile the opportunities of modern communications with traditional
models of economic and political administration of infrastructure, autocratic and isolated
countries have frequently followed a path of having strong government-linked monopolies over
Internet and mobile services.422 In this model, governments that are concerned with generating
revenue or asserting control over public communications consolidate the number of operators
and international pathways out of the country. In Vietnam, onerous licensing laws and the state
domination of markets betray the surprisingly decentralized physical infrastructure determined
through measurement data.
As a ratio of the population to international network gateways, Vietnam exceeds China and
Iran, resulting in a technical decentralization more typical of non repressive countries.423 This
situation directly affects the effectiveness of applying censorship through direct technical
intervention. This is much more difficult. As a result, a repressive country must rely heavily on
compulsion by regulation or informal political coordination to police all providers. This
arrangement also reduces the chance that a single failure might cause prolonged
inaccessibility or reduced performance. As a result, Vietnams infrastructure design is
considerably more conducive to Internet Freedom than are those of countries with similar
political conducive or development indicators.
While differences in filtering were apparent between tests conducted on the VNPTs mobile
operators, MobiFone and VinaPhone, government ownership presents dangerous conditions
that allow for intervention by regime actors. As noted in the assessment of DNS interference,
VinaPhone appears to depend on another VNPT-owned entity, the VDC, in order to coordinate
some functionalities of censorship apparatus. Additionally, despite redundancy in international
transit, most of VNPTs various subsidiaries appear domestically centralized under one AS.
With little differentiation between enterprises, the further consolidation of functionalities and
strategic points of network intervention present the risk that Vietnams relatively
unsophisticated controls could rapidly expand.
See e.g. Voz Forums, Nov. 19, 2011, available at http://vozforums.com/showthread.php?t=2576110; My
World Blog, Nov. 19, 2011, available at
https://web.archive.org/web/20140223065218/http://my.opera.com/marsstar/blog/2011/11/19/127-0-0-1www-360-cn-127-0-0-1; Facebook Post, April 29, 2012, available at https://vivn.facebook.com/quaihachachco/posts/293759844038525.
422
See Jim Cowie, Could It Happen In Your Country?, Renesys, Nov. 30, 2012, available at
http://www.renesys.com/2012/11/could-it-happen-in-your-countr/.
423
Id.
421

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Furthermore, NetNams traceroutes demonstrate the ambiguity of how law is ultimately


translated to infrastructure administration. While licensed as an Internet Services Provider and
Online Services Provider, the network maintains two active Autonomous Systems and is
directly connected to two international providers, NTT America, Inc. and TeliaSonera
International Carrier. In traceroute data collected by our observations, international transit
exclusively exited from NetNam directly to NTTs Hong Kong network. While previous results
demonstrate that such autonomy does not prevent extensive censorship, this does show that
NetNam maintains a more mature operation than might be anticipated and provides an
example of what could be if stronger promotion of privatization and competition existed.

Similar Techniques in Other Countries


There is no evidence that HTTP filtering, such as that employed by Bluecoat devices, is
occurring with the networks tested or that more sophisticated network technologies are
leveraged for censorship (as determined with the http_host test) during the period tested. The
documented approach is similar to the one used by Belgian ISPs to block access to the Pirate
Bay.424 Establishing this approach in other countries is as simple as deploying a commonplace
DNS server for local users and manually blacklisting domains through a Response Policy
Zone configuration, therefore not requiring specialized hardware and accomplishable through
open source software.425
Several Indonesian providers have deployed similar approaches that impose restriction on
morally objectionable content. These ISPs leverage a filtering regime based on false answers
provided by local DNS servers, while blocking access to internationally hosted DNS services.426
The latter component prevents users from circumventing the censorship by changing their
system to lookup website names from any number of publicly available servers, as discussed
in more detail below. The OONI dns_consistency test on Vietnamese networks was
successfully available to perform international lookups as a control to compare against the
local providers results.
Other censoring states, such as Iran and China, continue to allow lookups against foreign DNS
servers. However, they employ deep packet inspection (DPI) technology to monitor these
requests and impersonate foreign servers when a censored website is requested. Under such
conditions, this injection by censors can be detected by making a request to an address that is
not listening for DNS requests. The censor will not be aware of whether the recipient is a valid
DNS server and will answer regardless. Observing the censors answer and receiving a
response when none should be received can be an indicator of censorship technology. OONIs
dns_injection test conducts this very experiment. In Vietnam, only on the privileged network of
NetNam did it appear that a system was injecting DNS requests. However, no clear censorship
Enigmax, Belgian ISPs Ordered To Block The Pirate Bay, TorrentFreak, Oct. 4, 2011, available at
http://torrentfreak.com/belgian-isps-ordered-to-block-the-pirate-bay-111004/.
425
Omar Santos, Using DNS RPZ to Block Malicious DNS Requests, Cisco Blogs, Oct. 2, 2013,
available at http://blogs.cisco.com/security/using-dns-rpz-to-block-malicious-dns-requests/.
426
Citizen Lab, IGF 2013: Islands of Control, Islands of Resistance: Monitoring the 2013 Indonesian
IGF, Dec. 16, 2013, available at https://citizenlab.org/2013/12/igf-2013-islands-control-islandsresistance-monitoring-2013-indonesian-igf-foreword/.
424

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was documented, and the responses received appeared to be valid, leaving it unclear what the
function of this mechanism is other than potentially to facilitate captive portal sign-ins to the
network.

Circumvention and Anti-Censorship Methods


With the long-standing censorship of Internet content, Vietnamese users have gained
significant expertise in navigating around this blocking. As noted above, Facebook was first
blocked in Vietnam at the end of 2009 and the widespread disruption caused a much larger
segment of the population in Vietnam to start searching for methods around the blocking.
Given that using the Internet for activities such as undermining national security and social
order or helping someone illegally access and use Internet services could result in
government action against the individual, employing circumvention techniques can certainly
come with consequence.427 Nevertheless, Vietnamese users have taken the bold step of
opposing this broad censorship and have discovered a variety of means to do this. With well
over 90 percent of users relying on Google in Vietnam, Google Trends provides the ability to
explore the timing of increased censorship and the corresponding response by citizens.428
Consistently parallel increases in relevant search terms occurred at multiple times over the past
few years, as shown below. The primary dates include:

The introduction of blocking to Facebook in November 2009, reportedly due to the


creation of a Facebook page protesting a multi billion dollar bauxite mine in central
Vietnam, represents the first noticeable increase in searches for circumvention
solutions;429
An expansion of the block on Facebook in June 2010 saw an even larger increase;
A significant tightening on Internet censorship occurred in the weeks surrounding the
11th National Party Congress in January 2011;
In January 2012, another spike occurred. This is likely related to the Tien Lang land
dispute;
With Decree 72 poised to be released, June 2013 saw another rise.

Decree 97/2008/N-CP, The Prime Minister of Government, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, August 28,
2008, available at http://english.mic.gov.vn/vbqppl/Lists/Vn%20bn
%20QPPL/Attachments/6159/31236373.PDF; Joint Circular No. 02/2005/TTLT-BCVT-VHTT-CA-KHDT,
Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications
and Ministry of Planning and Investment, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, July 14, 2005, available at
http://vbpl.vn/tw/Pages/vbpqen-toanvan.aspx?ItemID=6824.
428
Top 5 Search Engines in Vietnam, StatCounter, Dec. 2008 - May 2014, available at
http://gs.statcounter.com/#all-search_engine-VN-monthly-200812-201405.
429
See e.g. Helen Clark, Facebook in Vietnam: Why the block doesnt work, GlobalPost, Oct. 4, 2010,
available at http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/vietnam/100928/facebook-internet-china-press-freedom;
H.C. Defriended, The Economist, Jan. 4, 2011, available at
http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/01/facebook_vietnam.
427

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Interestingly, the number of tools used to circumvent this censorship appears to be growing.
Users are being driven by what appear to be more rigorous censorship techniques. However, it
is clear that no one cause contributes to these apparent shifts in tool adoption. Two main
causes appear to be the methods of censorship and a tools ease of use. As demonstrated in
more detail below, Vietnamese users began their circumvention activities relying on less robust
solutions like simple DNS solutions. With the use of more advanced censorship techniques,
holistic blocking solutions such as Ultrasurf and VPNs grow in attention. By mid-2013, a variety
of solutions appear to garner interest.
As noted above, a significant amount of content is blocked via DNS methods. As a result,
indications from the ground suggest that many users rely on alternative DNS providers, such as
Google DNS or Open DNS, to access Internet content blocked in this way.430 Below, you can
see the sharp rise in Vietnamese searches for DNS and DNS facebook throughout the
censorship events.431 This is particularly true during significant censorship events such as in
late 2009 and early 2010 when the blocking of Facebook began432 and mid-2010 when VNPT
took additional steps to block Facebook, likely through HTTP packet inspection.433

See e.g. Anh-Minh Do, Did Twitter just get blocked in Vietnam?, TechInAsia, Nov. 20, 2013, available
at http://www.techinasia.com/twitter-blocked-in-vietnam/.
431
While Google DNS was launched in December 2009, queries as far back as 2004 suggest the
technique was sought by those circumventing blocking prior to Facebook being unavailable.
Nonetheless, with the two terms shown side by side, its clear why much of the interest exists.
432
See e.g. Jillian C. York, Is Vietnam Blocking Facebook?, OpenNet Initiative, Nov. 18, 2009, available
at https://opennet.net/blog/2009/11/is-vietnam-blocking-facebook; Nht Hin, Cng ng blogger trc
vic mng facebook b chn, Radio Free Asia, Dec. 3, 2009, available at
http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/Blogger-talk-about-facebook-banned-in-vn12032009091300.html; FPT tr li v vic truy cp Facebook, BBC Vietnamese, Nov. 20, 2009,
available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/vietnamese/vietnam/2009/11/091120_facebook_update.shtml. See also
Hai Nam, Hng dn khc phc s c Internet Viettel khng vo Facebook c, Thng tin cng nghe,
Nov. 6, 2009, available at http://www.thongtincongnghe.com/article/13231.
433
See e.g. Internet censorship tightening in Vietnam, AsiaNews, June 22, 2010, available at
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Internet-censorship-tightening-in-Vietnam-18746.html;
Mng x hi Vit Nam s bng n khi Facebook b chn su?, Viet Solution June 25, 2010, available at
http://www.vietsol.net/tin-tuc/chi-tiet/mang-xa-hoi-viet-nam-se-bung-no-khi-facebook-bi-chan-sau-319/;
15/6/2010 VNPT khng vo c Facebook???, DDTH.com, June 16, 2010, available at
http://www.ddth.com/showthread.php/371102-15-6-2010-VNPT-kh%C3%B4ng-v%C3%A0o%C4%91%C6%B0%E1%BB%A3c-Facebook?s=dfe9fb74392f05c73537763bfd0d6956; Mng VNPT
khng vo c Facebook?, TheGioiTinHoc.vn, June 19, 2010, available at http://thegioitinhoc.vn/ispicp-osp/21156-mang-vnpt-khong-vao-duoc-facebook.html; Cch vo Facebook vi VNPT ( VDC ) bng
Opera Turbo, Viettel Online, available at http://viettelonline.com/tin-cong-nghe/cach-vao-facebook-voivnpt-vdc-bang-opera-turbo.html.
430

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Researchers have also found alternative DNS providers to be well utilized in Vietnam. A 2012
test found 31 percent of Vietnamese users relying on Google DNS and 6 percent on
OpenDNS.434 A 2013 experiment found nearly half of Vietnamese users to be relying on Google
DNS, far more than in any other country tested.435 In addition, the three ISPs with the highest
percentage of Google DNS users were Vietnamese (VNPT, Viettel, and FPT).436 Despite these
insightful results, further research in this area is clearly needed.
Opera Mini is a very lean, free browser app that is available to nearly any mobile phone on the
market. Opera Mini has a unique feature that makes browsing faster than a speeding
bullet.437 In order to increase the Internet speeds, the service relies on a proxy server with
server-side compression.438 This can significantly reduce mobile data costs. Given that the
browser works on nearly every feature phone, this compression can save users significant
mobile data costs over time. Furthermore, users are able to circumvent website blocking
simply by using the browser. Despite being available since 2007, the app generated substantial
interest in the latter half of 2010 when it became available for Android.439

Aaron, Google DNS, OpenDNS and CDN performance, CDN Planet, Oct. 16, 2012, available at
http://www.cdnplanet.com/blog/google-dns-opendns-and-cdn-performance/.
435
Geoff Huston, Measuring Googles Public DNS, RIPE Network Coordination Centre, Nov. 10, 2013,
Table 1 and 3, available at https://labs.ripe.net/Members/gih/measuring-googles-public-dns.
436
Id. at Table 4.
437
Opera Software, Opera Mini, 2014, available at http://www.opera.com/mobile/mini.
438
Opera Software, Opera Turbo, 2011, available at http://help.opera.com/Mac/11.60/en/turbo.html.
439
See e.g. Google Trends, Vietnam, Jan. 2009-Jan. 2014, available at
https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=opera%20mini%2C%20opera
%20facebook&geo=VN&date=1%2F2009%2061m&cmpt=q.
434

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Opera noted in June 2010 that Facebook was back on the top 10 sites visited through Opera in
Vietnam after a seven-month absence.440 By January 2011 Vietnam had the third most users of
any country.441 In July 2012, Facebook was the second most-frequented site via Opera in
Vietnam.442 A year later four out of every five pages viewed via Opera Mini for Android in
Vietnam occurred on Facebook.443 Interestingly, MobiFone began offering a promotion in late
2012, for 15,000 VND ($0.71) per month in which subscribers received unlimited browsing
through Opera Mini with the only restriction focused on limiting bandwidth consumption.444
While the primary focus of this promotion and customers interest doesnt appear to be the
circumvention component, it is nevertheless utilized by default in the app.
As noted above, the Vietnamese government engages in more rigorous censorship at certain
times, in particular during periods of political importance such as elections or anniversaries.
This censorship can include increased DNS censorship in combination with IP blocking.445 The
reduced availability of Facebook, other social network websites, and political and advocacy
websites have become key indicators of attempts to control information flows surrounding
these events, as the censorship techniques move beyond more straightforward DNS blocking.
As a result, users must turn to more robust solutions. In early January 2011, in the lead-up to
the 11th Communist Party Congress, one of these events occurred. A multitude of users in
Vietnam suddenly found that changing DNS providers was no longer a successful
circumvention technique.446 The situation appears to have lasted for weeks.

State of the Mobile Web, June 2010, Opera Software, available at


http://www.operasoftware.com/archive/smw/2010/06/index.html.
441
State of the Mobile Web, January 2011, Opera Software, available at
http://www.operasoftware.com/archive/smw/2011/01/index.html.
442
State of the Mobile Web, July 2012, Opera Software, available at
http://www.operasoftware.com/archive/smw/2012/07/index.html.
443
Focus on Vietnam, Opera Software, July 2013, available at
http://www.operasoftware.com/archive/smw/2013/07/index.html.
444
MobiFone launches Opera Mini Data Plan in Vietnam, Opera Software, Dec. 12, 2012, available at
http://www.operasoftware.com/press/releases/mobile/mobifone-launches-opera-mini-data-plan-invietnam.
445
Conversation with IT Expert. See also e.g. tomo, Easy Access to Facebook in Vietnam, Part Deux,
Saigonist, Jan. 14, 2011, available at http://www.saigonist.com/content/easy-access-facebook-vietnampart-deux.
446
Conversation with IT Expert. See also e.g. H.C., Defriended, The Economist, Jan. 4, 2011, available at
http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/01/facebook_vietnam; tomo, Easy Access to Facebook in
Vietnam, Part Deux, Saigonist, Jan. 14, 2011, available at http://www.saigonist.com/content/easyaccess-facebook-vietnam-part-deux; How to bypass Vietnamese block of Facebook, Live Journal, Dec.
30, 2010, available at https://genie.livejournal.com/127445.html; facebook (FB) b chn mng FPT VNPT
ngy 4/1/2011 Cch vo ti y, Bao Bong Da So 24H, Jan. 4, 2011, available at
http://baobongdaso24h.com/tin-tuc-trong-ngay/facebook-fb-bi-chan-mang-vnpt-ngay-29-12-2010; Ngon
Pham, Twitter, March 2, 2011, available at https://twitter.com/ngonpham/status/42977573931724800;
Michael Strahan, Lisp4 and facebook now blocked in Vietnam, Blogspot, March 3, 2011 available at,
http://gymnastmike.blogspot.com/2011/03/lisp4-and-facebook-now-blocked-in.html; Isabelle Du, Twitter,
Dec. 29, 2010, available at https://twitter.com/keithtacey/status/20384185931800576.
440

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With this sudden expansion in censorship techniques, along with additional content, users
turned to a variety of options.447

The chart makes clear that users primarily turned their attention to Ultrasurfa free, adsupported, desktop-only toolto overcome the increased censorship. The tool employs
encryption and relies on an HTTP proxy to provide users with access to censored content. The
chart below further highlights the decline of focus on simple DNS options.

This large censorship event occurred just as Google applied an improvement to our geographical
assignment. Thus, the results may be skewed in certain instances. Regardless, it's clear considerable
attention was being paid to many circumvention tools during this time. See Google Trends, Vietnam, Jan.
2009-Jan. 2014, available at https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=Hotspot%20Shield%2C%20Tien
%20Lang%2C%20DNS%2C%20DNS%20facebook&geo=VN&date=1%2F2009%2061m&cmpt=q.
447

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Beyond this development, what stands out most is the huge rise that occurs in January and
February 2012.448 This peak coincides with the Tien Lang incident. In early January, a farmer
and his family living in the Tien Lang region took up arms against the governments seizure of
his land. Within days, more rigorous blocking of Facebook and its rapidly growing user base
occurred.449
The press and blogosphere almost unanimously supported the farmers cause.450 As one
articles notes in blogs and on Facebook, people circulated new facts, alternative analyses and
counterarguments to local authorities discourses.451 Regardless of whether the Tien Lang
incident was the cause of the increased censorship, it resulted in Vietnamese users needing to
do more than use an alternative DNS provider and seek out new circumvention methods.
See Google Trends, Vietnam, Jan. 2009-Jan. 2014, available at
https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=ultrasurf&geo=VN&date=1%2F2009%2061m&cmpt=q.
449
Hng dn cch vo Facebook khi b chn bi nh cung cp ADSL, Kenhdaihoc.com, Jan. 14, 2012,
available at http://kenhdaihoc.com/forum/threads/2512-Huong-dan-cach-vao-Facebook-khi-bi-chan-boinha-cung-cap-ADSL.kdh; tomo, Facebook in Vietnam 2012, Saigonist, Jan. 9, 2012, available at
http://www.saigonist.com/b/facebook-vietnam-2012; Cch vo facebook bng phn mm UltraSurf,
hotro24h, Jan. 14, 2012, available at http://hotro24h.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/cach-vao-facebookbang-phan-mem-ultrasurf-10-17-11-04-12-01/; Theo Genk, Ti sao nh mng chn Facebook?,Giaoduc
Viet Nam, Jan. 11, 2012, available at http://giaoduc.net.vn/Muc-cu/Khoa-hocCong-nghe/Tai-sao-nhamang-chan-Facebook-post31307.gd; Cch vo facebook 2012 khi b chn rt n gin, ch cn click,
ZN-Zoom.com, Jan. 26, 2012, available at http://www.vn-zoom.com/f77/cach-vao-facebook-2012-khi-bichan-rat-don-gian-chi-can-click-1678504.html; Michael Zambrano, How to access Facebook in Vietnam,
vpnfor.us, Feb. 19, 2012, available at http://vpnfor.us/how-to/access-facebook-in-vietnam/.
450
See David G. Marr, Vietnams high-profile land dispute, Inside Story, March 23, 2012, available at
http://inside.org.au/vietnam-high-profile-land-dispute/.
451
Huong Nguyen, Internet Stirs Activism in Vietnam, YaleGlobal, May 11, 2012, available at
http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/internet-stirs-activism-vietnam.
448

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While Ultrasurf garnered the most interest from end users, a variety of tools saw increased
attention, as the chart below demonstrates (with the inclusion of facebook b chn [facebook
is blocked]).452 The across the board spike occurs during the week of Jan. 8-14.

One of the methods receiving significant attention is the free, ad-supported Hotspot Shield.
Hotspot Shield is a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs establish a virtual point-to-point
connection that all Internet traffic funnels through. The graph below demonstrates the clear
interest in the VPN service during significant censorship events.453

See Google Trends, Vietnam, Oct. 2011-Jan. 2012, available at


https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=Hotspot%20Shield%2C%20DNS%2C%20file%20host%2C
%20facebook%20b%E1%BB%8B%20ch%E1%BA%B7n&geo=VN&date=10%2F2011%206m&cmpt=q.
453
See Google Trends, Vietnam, Aug. 2010-Jan. 2014, available at
https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=hotspot%20shield%2C%20hotspot
%20facebook&geo=VN&date=8%2F2010%2042m&cmpt=q.
452

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Another more narrow tool for circumvention is via changing the computer's hosts file.454 By
knowing the IP address(es) of the website being blocked, a user can input it into the hosts file,
which serves as a local DNS server to be checked prior to any external DNS servers. The tactic
is more difficult for censors to overcome than relying on an alternative DNS provider but also
more tedious for end users.455 This tool appears to have quickly garnered attention during the
early 2012 censorship event.456

This solution requires that all relevant IP addresses be included. As a result, this solution can create
difficulties. For instance, some Vietnamese users were unable to upload photos or videos. See e.g. Cch
vo Facebook ( Fb) KHNG B CHN FPT VNPT Mi nht Cp nht thng 9/2011 BAO BONG DA SO
24H, Jan. 21, 2011, available at http://baobongdaso24h.com/tin-tuc-trong-ngay/cach-vao-facebook-fbkhong-bi-chan-viettel-vnpt; Cch vo Facebook s dng phn mm UltraSurf, Zing Blog, Jan. 10, 2012,
available at http://blog.zing.vn/jb/dt/langtudatinhvip39/8484133?from=my.
455
See e.g. Unblock Facebook,GatherProxy, 2014, available at
http://gatherproxy.com/Wiki/Tips_Unblock_Facebook.
456
See Google Trends, Vietnam, Aug. 2010-Jan. 2014, available at
https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=file%20host%2C%20file%20host
%20facebook&geo=VN&date=8%2F2010%2042m&cmpt=q.
454

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As is clear from many of the charts, another significant censorship event took place in midJune 2013.457 As noted in Section III: Freedom of Speech, Decree 72 was passed in July 2013.
In the weeks preceding that event Vietnamese authorities, apparently concerned with the
populations reaction, increased censorship online. The below chart demonstrates the sharp
rise in interest of circumvention tools during this period.

As shown above, another tool, C Rm, garnered significant interest during this increased
censorship period,. C Rm+ is a product of Cc Cc, a Russian-financed search engine
looking to gain market share in Vietnam.458 As the company was ramping up in early 2013, it
sought to appease government censors by redirecting searches of content critical of the
government to Google.459
Cc Cc also has a desktop browser product, known as C Rm+. Despite their
appeasement, in May 2013 they released a new version of C Rm+ that includes automatic
DNS bypassing.460 This feature is prominently highlighted to website visitors, noting they can
Clearly, other disruptions of Facebook occurred beyond those explored in June 2011, November 2012,
and March 2013. Its unclear what the causes were, whether censorship or some other technical issue.
Nevertheless, multiple Vietnamese users posted to forums about their inability to access Facebook during
these times. These occurrences deserve a full exploration in future research. See e.g. How to access
Facbook in Vietnam using hosts file under OSX, The Rubyist Journal, June 3, 2011, available at
http://joneslee85.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/how-to-access-facebook-in-vietnam-using-hosts-file-underosx/.
458
Chris Brummitt, Google Challenger in Vietnam Redirecting Queries, Associated Press, May 16,
2013, available at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/google-challenger-vietnam-redirecting-queries.
459
Id.
460
See e.g. Trnh duyt C Rm+: Lt Facebook vi vu, t thm du ting Vit, ChipOnline, July 10,
2013, available at http://echip.com.vn/trinh-duyet-co-rom-luot-facebook-vi-vu-tu-them-dau-tieng-vieta20130709125912949-c1079.html.
457

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access Facebook comfortably.461 They claim more than 22 million downloads and have
approximately 12 percent of the browser market in Vietnam.462 Alexa ranks it as the mostvisited site in Vietnam.463 As demonstrated below, some Vietnamese users view the browser as
a circumvention option.464

In our discussions, it was clear that far fewer Vietnamese have adopted Tor, an Internet
circumvention and anonymity tool, than the circumvention options noted above. This appeared
to be due in large part to the fact that most users are simply looking to circumvent blocking
rather than gain anonymity. As a result, users found the performance of Tor lacking compared
to other options. Tor collects metrics on users by country and releases them publicly. You can
see that data for Vietnam below.465 Its unclear why no data exist prior to September 2013 but,
only a small subset of users utilize Tor within Vietnam.

See http://coccoc.com/#accessfacebook.
Id.; Top 5 Desktop Browsers in Vietnam, StatCounter, May 2014, available at
http://gs.statcounter.com/#desktop-browser-VN-monthly-201405-201405-bar.
463
Top Sites in Vietnam, Alexa, 2014, available at http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/VN.
464
See Google Trends, Vietnam, May. 2013-Sept. 2013, available at
https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=C%E1%BB%9D%20R%C3%B4m%2C%20facebook%20b
%E1%BB%8B%20ch%E1%BA%B7n&geo=VN&date=5%2F2013%205m&cmpt=q.
465
See Tor Metrics Portal: Users, Vietnam, May. 2013-Sept. 2013, available at
https://metrics.torproject.org/users.html?graph=userstats-relay-country&start=2013-08-05&end=2014-0506&country=vn&events=off#userstats-relay-country.
461
462

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With many millions of Vietnamese Internet users relying on alternative DNS providers,
potentially half the connected population, the country may represent the highest percentage of
netizens worldwide circumventing Internet censorship. This is due in no small part to the block
on Facebook. The research above demonstrates that when the government increases
censorship, Vietnamese citizens identify tools to work around it.
Increasingly it appears that a widening array of tools are being sought out.466 Furthermore,
mobile phone shops also appear routinely to offer customers the ability to have circumvention
tools installed upon purchase, which can be as simple as changing the default DNS provider or
downloading Opera Mini. Similarly, certain solutions are more likely conducive to word-ofmouth proliferation than to a Google search.467
For Facebook, Vietnamese citizens have discovered a vast array of methods including secondary
addresses, utilizing https or a variety of proxies. See e.g. 7 Cch Truy cp vo Facebook, Twitter Hoc
Bt K Trang Web B Chn No, November 2009, available at
http://fpt.namdan.net/2009/11/cach-truy-cap-facebook-twitter-bi-chan.html; tomo, Routing Around
Vietnam's Facebook Block Via Apps, Saigonist, June 24, 2011, available at
http://www.saigonist.com/b/routing-around-vietnams-facebook-block-apps; 18 cch vo Facebook khi b
chn, Cong Ty The Thao Quoc Te Viet, Feb. 3, 2012, available at
http://conhantaovietnam.com/18+cach+vao+facebook+khi+bi+chan-3-137-5760.html; 5 Cch vo
facebook khi b chn mi nht 2014, Th thut phn mm, May 18, 2014, available at
http://thuthuatphanmem.net/cach-vao-facebook/5-cach-vao-facebook-khi-bi-chan/.
467
See Hal Roberts, Ethan Zuckerman, Jillian York, Rob Faris and John Palfrey, International Bloggers
and Internet Control, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, August 2011, p. 30-31, available at
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.law.harvard.edu/files/International_Bloggers_and_Internet_Contro
466

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This overall diffusion in circumvention techniques increases the difficulty of preventing citizens
from exercising their digital rights. Unfortunately, many of the methods utilized provide
increased access but not necessarily security for the user. The results of that trend are
demonstrated in the widespread monitoring and digital and physical repression of users.

Section V: Conclusion
Key Findings

Government investment in mobile communications has resulted in ubiquitous coverage


and low costs for 2G service. The migration of Vietnamese to 3G Internet connected
mobile devices will continue. This can be attributed to rapidly declining device costs
with increases in mobile connectivity costs and network quality issues potentially
limiting adoption.

Internet censorship has led a vast percentage of the population to employ a variety of
circumvention tactics. This development will make future censorship efforts difficult due
to an appetite for and acceptance of solutions.

Domestic and Chinese mobile phone production could lead to the expansion of
hardware level capabilities for surveillance and censorship, but will also lower costs and
make devices more accessible to the population.

Social media serve as a key organizing tool for activists and dissidents who connect
with each other and to the world using platforms like Facebook. Again and again, those
on the ground cited the advent of these technologies as a key catalyst in the growing
movement for Vietnamese democracy.

Interviewed activists and journalists tread a tenuous path: they understand that
government surveillance and monitoring are very real threats to their movement and to
themselves. But this fear has not cowed them.

Vietnam has become perhaps the largest community of Internet circumvention users,
but the primary circumvention tools used are not protecting end users from online and
offline repression.

The Vietnamese government is increasingly utilizing DDOS and malware attacks on a


widening array of global actors.

l_Results_0.pdf.

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Recommendations
With the environment for netizens in Vietnam worsening, the importance of identifying ways
both to assist individuals and to instigate broader improvements grows. These
recommendations are focused on identifying realistic actions that can be taken to improve the
current situation in Vietnam. In an ideal world, the Vietnamese government would truly adhere
to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as it has repeatedly promised, and
provide Vietnamese citizens with the freedom of expression they deserve.

The United States provides billions of dollars to Vietnam through the Export-Import
Bank. In some cases these funds are provided to entities like the Vietnam Development
Bank and in turn to state-owned enterprises with minimal investment oversight. As a
result, SOEs have taken on massive debt and questionable projects. The U.S. should
push for reform of this process, and the provision of any economic assistance funds
should be tied to improvements in human rights and free expression.

Vietnam should prioritize the improvement of 3G networks and rapidly shift to 3.5G
networks. With increased usage and adoption of mobile data services, robust capacity
is needed to accommodate current and future subscribers.

Vietnamese netizens should increase the adoption of digital security tools that not only
provide access to blocked websites but also enhanced security and anonymity. As
more and more Vietnamese adopt Internet-connected mobile devices, the availability of
these tools on mobile platforms is crucial.

Those funding Internet freedom should support efforts to combat this repression,
particularly in regards to the offensive capabilities being deployed beyond just
conventional monitoring. Localization and distribution of existing tools must be a
priority.

The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam should offer free resources to help Vietnamese citizens
communicate freely and securely online.

The United States should leverage concern for Internet Freedom in negotiations with
Vietnam on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While this is a multi country agreement, U.S.
representatives must anticipate and address potential impacts on freedom of
expression and identify mechanisms to improve the situation moving forward.

Formal efforts should be supported to fully document the expanding list of methods for
digital repression occurring within Vietnam.

Technology and Internet companies should work with global civil society groups and
communication security technologists to create or identify mechanisms to support free

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expression in Vietnam. Ideally, these activities would occur with the involvement of the
Global Network Initiative.

Significant improvements are needed to better regulate and monitor the export of digital
censorship technologies that are currently being used by the Vietnamese government to
violate freedom of expression.

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Appendix I - Censored Websites

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Appendix II - Mobile Shops


MobiFone Shop in Saigon

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Vietnamobile Shop

Street Shop in Saigon

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Appendix III - VinaPhone Registration Form

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Appendix IV - Promotional Materials


Vietnamobile 3G Data Price Sheet
(Both documents collected directly from a Vietnamobile store in Saigon)

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VNPT DSL Price Sheet

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Appendix V - Mobile Phone Price List


(An earlier version was viewed at the Saigon mobile shop and prices were reviewed to ensure validity.)

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Appendix VI - Decree 72

THE GOVERNMENT
_______________

THE SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM


Independence - Freedom - Happiness

: 72/2013/N-CP

___________________________________

Hanoi, 15 July 2013

DECREE
Supervision, provision and use of Internet services and online data
Based upon the Law on Organization of the Government dated 25 December 2001;
Based upon the Telecommunications Law dated 23 November 2009;
Based upon the Law on Informatics Technology dated 29 June 2006;
Based upon the Law on Newspapers dated 28 December 1989, and the Law on Amendments
to the Law on Newspaper dated 12 June 1999;
Based upon the Law on Publication dated 03 December 2004 and the Law on Amendments to
the Law on Publication dated 03 June 2008;
As requested by the Minister of Information and Communications,
The Government issues a Decree on supervision, provision and use of internet and online data.

Chapter I - General Provisions


Article 1. Scope of application
This Decree provides in detail the management, provision and use of Internet services, online
information, online games, provision of information security and safety; rights and obligations
of organizations and individuals engaging in management, provision and use of internet
services, online information, online games and provision of information security and safety.
Article 2. Subjects of application
This Decree is applicable to domestic and foreign organizations and individuals directly
engaging in or being relevant to the management, provision and use of Internet services, online
information, online games and provision of information security and safety.

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Article 3. Interpretation
The words used herein shall be interpreted as follows:
1. Network shall be a general concept for telecommunications networks (fixed, mobile,
Internet), computer networks (WANs, LANs).
2. Internet services shall be a type of telecommunication services, including Internet access
services and Internet connectivity services:
a) Internet access services shall be the services to provide Internet users with Internet access
ability.
b) Internet connectivity shall be the services to provide Internet access service enterprises and
telecommunications application service enterprises with the ability to connect to each other in
order to transmit Internet flows.
3. Internet exchange stations shall be a telecommunication equipment system established by
an organization or enterprise in order to provide Internet connectivity services.
4. Internet service enterprises shall be the enterprises which provide the Internet services as
specified in Clause 2 of this Article.
5. Internet agents shall be organizations and individuals providing Internet access to Internet
users under an Internet agent contract signed with the Internet access service enterprise for
commission or resell Internet access services for a margin.
6. Internet public access point shall include:
a) the places where Internet agents have the sole right to use to provide services;
b) Internet public access points of Internet access service enterprises directly managed by
affiliated companies or individuals representing Internet access service enterprises to provide
Internet access to Internet users ;
c) Internet public access points at hotels, restaurants, airports, railway stations, bus stations,
coffee shops and other public locations where organizations and individuals have the sole right
to use to provide Internet access to Internet users
7. Internet users shall be organizations, individuals signing service contracts with Internet
access service enterprises or owners of Internet public access points to use Internet
applications and services.
8. Internet resources shall be the combination of names and digits under the management of
Vietnams, including:

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a) National domain of Vietnam .vn, other domains relevant to the national interests of
Vietnam; Internet addresses, network codes, other names and digits allocated to Vietnam by
international organizations via Vietnam National Internet Center (VNNIC).
b) International domains, Internet addresses, network codes, other names and digits allocated
by international organizations to organizations and individuals for use in Vietnam.
9. Online game services (hereinafter called online games) shall be the services to provide
players with network access and ability to play online games.
10. Online game service enterprises (hereinafter called game service enterprises) shall be the
enterprises established under Vietnamese law to provide online games services through the
establishment of equipment systems and the use of legal online games software.
11. Public online game service points shall be the place where an organization or individual has
the full rights to use for providing users with access to websites and ability to play online
games through the establishment of equipment at that place.
12. Online game players (hereinafter called players) shall be individuals entering into contracts
with game service enterprises or public online game service points to play online games.
13. Online information shall be the information stored, transmitted, collected and processed
online.
14. Public information shall be online information of an organization, individual which is
publicized to all people without being required to provide their respective identities or
addresses.
15. Private information shall be online information of an organisation, individual who does not
want to publicise it or who only publicises it to a person or group of people whose identities
and addresses have been identified.
16. Personal information shall be information associated with the identification of an individual
such as name, age, address, ID card number, number of credit cards, telephone numbers,
email addresses, and other information in accordance with the laws.
17. Content information services shall be services to provide public information to users.
18. Official source of information shall be information that is publicized or disseminated in
Vietnamese newspapers or in websites of Partys and state agencies in accordance with the
provisions of the laws on newspapers, and copyrights.
19. General information shall be the information compiled by various sources of information or
forms of information on one or several areas of politics, economy, culture, society.

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20. Information system shall be a combination of telecommunications and information


technology equipment including hardware, software and database used for the storage,
process, transmission, sharing, exchange, provision and use of information.
21. Website shall be an information system used to establish one or several online information
pages which are presented in the forms of codes, digits, letters, images, sound and other
information supporting to the supply and use of information in Internet.
22. Social network services shall be information systems providing Internet users with the
services of storage, provision, search, sharing and exchange of information, including the
services to create personal online information page, forums, chats, sound and image sharing,
and other forms of similar services.
23. Information safety shall be the protection of information and information system from being
illegally accessed, used, disclosed, suspended, changed or destroyed in order to ensure the
unity, confidentiality and availability (timely and creditworthy) of information.
24. Information security shall be the guarantee that online information does not harm national
security, public safety and order, state secrets, legitimate rights and obligations of
organizations and individuals.
Article 4. Policies on develop and manage Internet and online information
1. To promote the use of Internet in all socio economic activities especially in education,
training, health care, scientific research, and technology in order to increase productivity,
create jobs and raise living standards.
2. To encourage the development of contents and applications using the Vietnamese language
to serve Vietnamese community in Internet. To promote the provision of healthy and useful
information on the Internet.
3. To develop Internet wide band infrastructure at schools, hospitals, research institutes, state
bodies, enterprises, public internet access points and households. To universalize Internet
services in rural, areas, remote areas, border areas, islands, areas in extremely difficult socioeconomic conditions.
4. To block activities to make use of Internet affecting national security, public safety and order,
breaching morality, fine customs and habits, and provisions of the laws. To apply measures to
protect children from Internets negative effects.
5. To ensure that only legal information under the Vietnamese laws is permitted to be
transmitted, even cross borders, to Internet users in Vietnam.
6. To encourage and provide favorable conditions to broadly use the national domain of .vn,
domains in Vietnamese and move to use new Internet technology IPv6 (in short: IPv6
technology).

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7. To strengthen international co-operation in Internet on the basis of respecting national


sovereignty, independence, equality, mutual benefits and compliance with Vietnamese law and
international agreements to which Vietnam is a party.
Article 5. Prohibited activities
1. To take advantage of supply, use of Internet services and online information to:
a) oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; harm national security, social orders and safety;
devastate the great unity; propagate invasion wars, terrorism; making feud and hostility
amongst nationalities, ethnicities and religions;
b) propagate and evoke violence, obscene, depraved acts, crimes, social evils, superstition,
harming fine customs and habits of the nation.
c) Disclose national secrets, secrets of the army, economy, security, foreign affairs and other
secrets as specified by law.
d). Provide distorted, slanderous information, hurting names of organizations, individuals
honor and dignity.
) Market, propagate, sell and buy prohibited goods and services; propagate prohibited
newspaper, literature, art and publication works.
e) Illegally acting in the names of other organizations or individuals and disseminate falsified
and untruthful information, infringing legitimate rights and interests of such organizations or
individuals.
2. Illegally block the provision of and access to legal information, the provision and use of
lawful Internet services by organizations or individuals.
3. Illegally block the operation of the national domain server of .vn, and lawful operation of
equipment systems providing Internet services and online information.
4. Illegally use passwords and codes of organizations and individuals, private information,
personal information, and Internet resources.
5. Make illegal links to domains of organizations, enterprises and individuals; write, install,
disseminate harmful software, computer viruses; illegally access, take the control of
information system, make tools to attack in Internet.

Chapter II - Management, Provision and Use of Internet Services, and


Internet Resources
Section 1 - Internet Services
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Article 6. License to provide Internet services


1. Enterprises shall be allowed to provide Internet services after obtaining an Internet service
provision license.
2. The issuance, amendment, extension, revocation and re-issuance of Internet service
provision licenses shall be in accordance with Articles 35, 36, 38, 39 of the Law on
Telecommunications and Articles 18, 23, 24, 28 of Decree No. 25/2011/N-CP dated
06/4/2011 on the implementation of a number of provisions of the Law on Telecommunications.
Article 7. Rights and obligations of Internet service enterprises
In addition to the rights and obligations of telecommunications service provision enterprises
under Clause 1 of Article 14 of the Law on Telecommunications, enterprises providing Internet
services shall have the following obligations:
1. To send a notice of official provision of Internet services to the Telecommunications
Department under the Ministry of Information and Communications before official provision of
the services in accordance with regulations of Ministry of Information and Communications.
2. To prepare standard forms of Internet agent contracts, contracts for provision and use of
Internet services which are to be registered with the Telecommunications Department of the
Ministry of Information and Communications for the purpose of consistent performance by the
enterprise.
Article 8. Conditions for operation of public Internet access points
1. An Internet agent shall be allowed to operate upon the following conditions:
a) to register to trade in Internet agency activities.
b) to sign an Internet agent contract with the Internet access service enterprises.
c) In the case of provision of online game services, the enterprise shall comply with Clause 1 of
Article 35 of this Decree.
2. Public Internet access points of Internet access service enterprises shall not be required to
be registered as Internet agent service and sign Internet agency contracts. In case of provision
of online game services, public Internet access points shall comply with Clause 1 of Article 35
of this Decree.
3. Owners of public Internet access points hotels, restaurants, airports, railway stations, bus
stations, coffee shops, etc. when providing Internet access services to users at those places:
a) shall not be required to register to trade in Internet agent services or to sign an Internet
agent contract if providing these services for free. .

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b) If the provision of those services is for fees, the owners shall be required to register to trade
in Internet agent services and to sign Internet agent contracts.
Article 9. Rights and obligations of owners of public Internet access points
1. Internet agents shall have the following rights and obligations:
a) To establish terminal equipments at the place being used to provide Internet access
services to users.
b) To post a plate indicating Internet agent together with the registration code of
Internet agent business.
c) To post the Internet user rules at a place that is easy to be noticed, including
provisions on the prohibited activities under Article 5 of this Decree, the rights and obligations
of the users under Article 10 of this Decree.
d) To provide Internet access services subject to the quality and service charges as
specified in the relevant Internet agent contract.
) In the case of provision of online games, the Internet agent shall comply with the
regulations on the rights and obligations of owners of public online game service points under
Article 36 of this Decree.
e) Not to organize or allow Internet users to use the computer applications at his/her
place to carry out the prohibited activities under Article 5 of this Decree.
g) To be allowed to request the contracting enterprise that signs the Internet agent
contract to provide guidelines, to provide information about the Internet access services and
be subject to the supervision and inspection of the contracting enterprise.
h) To participate in training and coaching programs on Internet laws held by state
bodies or by the contracting Internet service supplier in the local place.
i) To comply with the regulations on information security and safety.
2. Public Internet access points belonging to enterprises shall have the following rights and
obligations:
a) To post a plate indicating Public Internet access point attached by the name and the
number of the Internet service permit of the enterprise owner;
b) To have the rights and obligations specified in Points a, c, ,e ,h ,i of Clause 1 of this Article.
3. Owners of Internet access points at hotels, restaurants, airports, railway stations, bus
stations, coffee shops, etc. when providing Internet access services for fees shall have the
following rights and obligations:

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a) To comply with the opening and closing times of the respective places;
b) those under the provisions in Points a, c ,, g, h, i, k of Clause 1 of this Article.
4. Owners of public Internet access points at hotels, restaurants, airports, railway stations, bus
stations, coffee shops, etc. when providing Internet access services for free shall have the
following rights and obligations:
a) To comply with the opening and closing times of the respective places;
b) the provisions in Points a, c ,e, h, i of Clause 1 of this Article.
Article 10. Rights and obligations of Internet users
In addition to the compliance with the rights and obligations under Clause 1 of Article 16 of the
Law on Telecommunications, an Internet access service user shall have the following rights and
obligations:
1. To be permitted to use Internet services except for those prohibited by laws.
2. To comply with the operation time limits applicable at public Internet access points.
3. Not to trade Internet services in any form whatsoever.
4. To comply with the regulations on information security and safety and other relevant
provisions under this Decree.
Article 11. Internet connectivity
1. Internet service enterprises shall be entitled to connect directly to international networks, to
each other and to Internet exchange stations.
2. National Internet exchange station (VNIX) shall be the Internet exchange station established
by the Vietnam National Internet Centre under the Ministry of Information and Communications
in order to:
a) Ensure safety for the operation of the whole Vietnamese Internet network in the case of any
error to domestic or international telecommunications networks;
b) Establish the national testing network IPv6;
c) Connect to the regional and international Internet exchange stations;
d) Provide Internet connectivity services to Internet service suppliers on a not-for-profit basis
with a view to enhance quality and reduce production costs.
3. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall have the duties to:

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a) Guide in details the operations of VNIX.


b) Issue regimes and policies to provide favorable conditions to Internet service enterprises to
connect to each other, to VNIX and to other Internet exchange stations.

Section 2 - Internet Resources


Article 12. Domain registration
1. Ministry of Information and Communications undertakes the state management of the
Vietnams national domain .vn and international domains allocated international organizations
to organizations and individuals in Vietnam.
2. All organizations, individuals shall be entitled to register Vietnam national domain of .vn
and international domains.
3. The registration of Vietnam national domain of .vn shall be conducted via .vn registration
agencies.
4. The registration of Vietnam national domain of .vn shall be in accordance with the following
principles:
a) equality, non-discrimination;
b) first to register, except for domain names reserved for auction in accordance with the laws;
c) compliance with the regulations on protection of Vietnam national domain .vn under Article
68 of the Law on Information Technology;
d) compliance with the regulations on bidding, transfer of the rights to use domains in
accordance with the Law on Telecommunications.
5. Domain names registered by organizations, individuals shall not include phrases that infringe
national interests or that are not in line with social morality, the nations fine customs and
habits; shall ensure the seriousness to avoid any misunderstanding or distortion because of the
polisemantic nature of Vietnamese or where Vietnamese is used without word marks.
6. Domain names being names of the Partys agencies, state bodies shall only be reserved for
the Partys agencies, and state bodies; other organizations, individuals shall not be allowed to
register or use those domain names.
7. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for the detailed conditions,
processes and procedures for registration and revocation of domain name .vn.
Article 13. National domain name server .vn

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1. National domain name server .vn shall be the technical system to ensure the operation of
the national domain name .vn in Internet. The Ministry of Information and Communications
(Vietnam Internet Center) shall establish, manages and operate the national domain name
server .vn.
2. Internet service enterprises shall be responsible for coordinating and ensuring the
connectivity, routing so that the national domain name server .vn operates safely and stably.
Article 14. .vn registrar
1. .vn registrar shall be an enterprise providing services to register and maintain .vn.
2. .vn registrar shall be allowed to provide services upon compliance with the following
conditions:
a) to be an enterprise established under Vietnamese law or be a foreign organization that signs
a contract with an accredited registrar of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN);
b) to have registered business activities;
c) to have sufficient human and technical capacity in line with the size of operation in order to
provide domain name registration and maintenance services
d) to sign a contract for .vn registrar with Vietnam Internet Center.
3. .vn registrar shall have the following rights and obligations:
a) to organize the registration and maintenance of domain names in accordance with the
existing regulations.
b) to store full and accurate information of organizations and individuals registering domain
names in accordance with regulations of Ministry of Information and Communications.
c) to set up domain name servers (DNS), technical systems to provide services and ensure
security and safety to the domain names of organizations and individuals using its services.
d) to be provided with guidelines and information on domain name registration and be subject
to inspection and supervision by the Ministry of Information and Communications.
) To reject to provide services when the applying organization or individual fails to meet
requirements for domain name registration.
e) To suspend or withdraw registered domain names as required by the competent bodies.
f)
g) Domestic .vn registrars shall use Primary DNS using ".vn" to provide DNS services.

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h) To prepare and publicize forms, procedures and formalities to register domain names in
accordance with the Ministry of Information and Communications regulations.
i) to report to and provide information to and coordinate with the competent bodies in
accordance with the relevant regulations.
Article 15. International domain name registrars in Vietnam
1. International domain name registrars shall be enterprises providing services to register and
maintain international domain names in Vietnam.
2. An international domain name registrar in Vietnam shall be allowed to provide services upon
compliance with the following conditions:
a) to be an enterprise established under Vietnamese law.
b) To have registered for the business activity of domain name registration services.
c) To sign a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
or an accredited registrar of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) to provide international domain name registration services in Vietnam.
3. An international domain name registrar in Vietnam shall have the following rights and
obligations:
a) To control information of organizations and individuals in Vietnam who have registered
international domain names with the international domain name registrar, including: names,
addresses of headquarters, telephone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses for
organizations; names, dates of birth, ID card numbers, dates and places of issue, permanent
addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses for individuals.
b) To guide the international domain name registering organizations, individuals to notify the
use of the international domain names in accordance with the Ministry of Information and
Communications regulations.
c) To report to the Ministry of Information and Communications as required by the relevant
regulations.
d) To provide information to, and to co-operate with the competent bodies to handle issues
relating to the international domain names under its control.
Article 16. Dispute resolutions in relation to domain names
1. Disputes over the registration and use of the national domain .vn shall be settled through
the following forms:
a) Negotiation and mediation;

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b) Arbitration;
c) Court action.
2. Grounds for settlement of domain name disputes upon request by claimants
a) The domain name in dispute is identical to or is confusingly similar to the name of the
claimant; is identical or is confusingly similar to trademark or service mark of which the
claimant has lawful interests or rights.
b) The defendant does not have any lawful right or interest in the disputed domain name.
c) the domain name is used by the defendant with unfaithful intentions against the claimant.
c) the defendant leases or transfers the domain name to the claimant who is the owner of the
name, trademark, service mark that is identical or confusingly similar to the domain name;
leases or transfers the domain name to the competitor of the claimant for the defendants own
benefits or for illegal earnings;
d) the defendant possesses and prohibits the owner of a name, trademark, service mark from
registering the domain name corresponding to the said name, trademark or service mark for
unfair competition purposes; or
) the defendant uses the domain name to destroy the name and reputation of the claimant, to
block claimants business or create confusion and discredit in the name, trademark, service
mark of the claimant for unfair competition purposes; or
e) other cases where the claimant can prove that the defendant use the domain name infringing
the legitimate rights and interests of the claimant.
3. The defendant shall be deemed to have the lawful rights and interests in connection with a
domain name if satisfies any of the following conditions:
a) having used or has evidence that it is going to use the domain name or a name that
corresponds to the domain name in relation to the actual supply of products, goods or services
before the dispute has arisen; or
b) to be known by the public because of the domain name regardless of having no rights for
trademarks, trade names or service marks; or
c) having used the domain name lawfully not for business purposes or used the domain name
legitimately not for business purposes or not making the public confused or misunderstood,
adversely affecting claimants the names, trademarks, service marks.
d) having other evidence demonstrating the legality of the defendant to the domain name.

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4. The .vn management agency shall handle the disputed domain name in accordance with a
mediation minute of the disputed parties, or a decision of the Arbitrator which already takes
effect, or a decision/judgement of the Court which already takes effect.
Article 17. Allocation, assignment and revocation of Internet addresses and autonomous
system numbers
1. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall control the registration of Internet
addresses and ASN for international organizations; allocation of Internet addresses and ASN
to Internet service enterprises and other Internet address members in Vietnam.
2. Internet service enterprises shall be allowed to assign the Internet addresses it is allocated
to its Internet subscribers.
3. Organizations, enterprises assigned with Internet addresses and ASN directly from
international organizations must report to and comply with relevant regulations of the Ministry
of Information and Communications.
4. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall promulgate detailed conditions,
procedures and formalities for registration, allocation, assignment and revocation of Internet
addresses and ASN.
Article 18. Promotion of application of Internet IPv6 technology
1. Internet IPv6 technology shall belong to the list of high technologies which are given priority
in development investment. The research, manufacturing, import equipment, software and
other applications of Internet IPv6 shall be entitled to incentives and supports in accordance
with the Law on High Technologies.
2. Internet service enterprises are encouraged and provided with favorable conditions to invest
in developing websites using Internet IPv6 technology.
3. New Internet connecting equipment invested and procured by state bodies shall have to
support Internet IPv6 technology in accordance with regulations of Ministry of Information and
Communications.
4. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall take the lead to co-operate with the
relevant ministries and agencies to formulate supporting policies and roadmaps to ensure that
all telecommunications and information technology equipment, software for Internet
connectivity locally manufactured or imported shall use Internet IPv6 technology, looking
forward to a full stop of production and import of equipment and software that do not support
Internet IPv6 technology.
5. Ministry of Education and Training shall guide the inclusion of IPv6 technology content into
the curricula of universities and colleges in the information technology and telecommunications
sector.

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Article 19. Rights and obligations of organizations and individuals using Internet resources
1. Organizations, individuals registering and using domain .vn shall have the following rights
and obligations:
a) To be responsible before the laws for the registered information, including the correctness,
truthfulness of the information and to ensure not to infringe lawful rights and interests of other
organizations, individuals.
b) To be responsible for the management, use of their domain names in accordance with the
laws.
2. Organizations, individuals using international domain names shall notify the Ministry of
Information and Communications as specified in Article 23 of the Law on Informatics
Technology. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide in detail the
procedures and formalities for the notification of using international domain names.
3. Organizations using Internet addresses and ASN shall be responsible for carrying out routing
and using Internet addresses and ASN in accordance with the Ministry of Information and
Communications regulations.
4. Organizations, individuals using Internet resources shall be responsible for providing
information to, and co-ordinating with, the competent state bodies when required.
5. Organizations, individuals using Internet resources shall be responsible for paying
registration fees and Internet resource maintenance fee in accordance with the law.

Chapter III - Management, Provision and Use of Online Information


Section 1 - General Provisions
Article 20. Classification of websites
Websites shall be classified as follows:
1. Online newspapers in the form of websites.
2. General website shall be the websites of agencies, organizations, enterprises providing
general information based upon the full and exact quote of the official source of information
with a clear indication of the name of the author or the agency of the official source, as well as
the time of publication thereof.
3. Intra websites shall be the websites of agencies, organizations, enterprises providing
information about the functions, powers, duties, organisational structures, services, products,

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business sectors and other necessary information supporting to the activities of those
agencies, organizations, enterprises without republication of official information.
4. Blogs shall be the website created by an individual own his/her own or through social
networks to provide and exchange information of that individual, not in the name of any other
organisation, individual without republication of official information.
5. Specialized application website shall be the website of agencies, organizations, enterprises
providing application services in telecommunications, informatics technology, audio visual
broadcasting, trade, finance, banking, culture, health care, education and other specialized
sectors without republication of official information.
Article 21. Principles for management, provision, use of online information
1. The management, provision, use of online information which is in the form of online
newspapers, online publications and online advertising shall be in accordance with the laws on
newspapers, publications and advertising.
2. The management, provision, use of online information which is in the form of social networks
and general websites shall comply with the provisions of Section 2, Chapter III and other
relevant provisions of this Decree.
3. The management, provision, use of information content services through the mobile
telecommunications network shall comply with the provisions of Section 3, Chapter III and
other relevant provisions of this Decree.
4. The management, provision, use of information contents in specialized application websites
shall comply with the laws in the specialized sectors and other relevant provisions of this
Decree.
5. Organizations, individuals shall be responsible before the laws for the information they store,
transmit and supply or disseminate online.
6. Private information of organizations, individuals shall be kept confidential in accordance with
the laws. The control of online private information shall be conducted by the state competent
bodies in accordance with the laws.
7. Organizations, enterprises providing online services shall not disclose personal information
of the service users unless:
a) the user agrees to disclose information;
b) organizations, enterprises have written agreement on the disclosure of personal information
in order to calculate tariffs, prepare bills and stop any act to circumvent contractual obligations;
c) when required by the state competent bodies in accordance with the laws.

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8. Organizations, individuals involving in management, provision and use of online information


shall be responsible for protecting state secrets in accordance with the laws. Organizations,
individuals when storing, transmitting online information which falls under the category of state
secrets shall be responsible for encoding the information in accordance with the laws.
Article 22. Cross border provision of public information
1. Foreign organizations, enterprises and individuals providing public information cross the
border to users in Vietnam or users having access from Vietnam shall be subject to the relevant
laws of Vietnam.
4. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall stipulate in detail the cross border
provision of public information.

Section 2 - Websites, Social Networks


Article 23. Management of the establishment of websites and social networks
Issuing licenses to establish general websites, social networks
1. Online newspapers in the form of websites shall be established and operate in accordance
with the laws on newspapers.
2. Specialized application websites shall be established and operate in accordance with the
laws in the specialized sectors and relevant provisions of this Decree.
3. Blogs and intra-websites shall comply with regulations on registration and use of Internet
resources and relevant provisions of this Decree.
4. Organizations, enterprises shall only be allowed to establish general websites, social
networks upon obtaining licenses to establish general websites, social networks.
5. Organizations, enterprises shall be issued licenses to establish general websites, social
networks upon satisfaction to the following conditions:
a) to be organizations, enterprises established under Vietnamese law having registered
business activities or having functions, duties consistent with the supplied services and
information contents;
b) to have management personnel satisfying the requirements as specified by the Ministry of
Information and Communications;
c) having registered lawful domain names to establish general websites and/or social networks;
d) to have sufficient financial, technical, organizational and human capabilities that are
consistent with the operation scale.

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) to have measures to ensure information security and safety.


6. A license to establish general websites and/or social networks shall have the validity term as
suggested in the application but cannot exceed 10 years;
7. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall grant licenses for establishment of
social networks.
8. The Department of Broadcasting, Television and Online Information the Ministry of
Information and Communications shall issue licenses to newspapers, foreign affair and
consulate bodies; organizations under the central government; religious organizations lawfully
operating in Vietnam; foreign governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations
lawfully operating in Vietnam; provincial Departments of Information and Communications shall
issue licenses to other organizations and agencies in accordance with the regulations of the
Ministry of Information and Communications.
9. Provincial Departments of Information and Communications shall issue licenses to
organizations and enterprises which are not specified in clause 8 of this Article.
10. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for the detailed conditions,
procedures to issue, amend, supplement, extend and withdraw licenses to establish general
websites and social networks.
11. The Ministry of Finance shall coordinate with the Ministry of Information and Commutations
to stipulate the licensing fees, charges for general websites and social networks.
Article 24. Rights and obligations of organizations and enterprises establishing general
websites
Organizations and enterprises establishing general websites shall have the following rights and
obligations:
1. To be authorized to establish general websites and provide general information to the public
in accordance with the laws.
2. To have at least one server system located in Vietnam in order to meet the requirements for
inspection, checking, storage and provision of information of competent state authorities and
to settle complaints of customers with respect to the provision of services in accordance with
regulations of Ministry of Information and Communications.
3. To set up procedures to control public information.
4. To supervise, inspect and eliminate public information in breach of Article 5 of this Decree
upon discovering the breach or upon written request by the competent state bodies.
5. To comply with the laws on copyrights and intellectual property in connection with the
provision and use of information.

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6. To store public information for at least 90 days from the date of publication of the same in
the general website.
7. To send reports to, and to be subject to inspection and supervision by, the state competent
bodies.
Article 25. Rights and obligations of organizations, enterprises establishing social networks
Organizations, enterprises establishing social networks shall have the following rights and
obligations:
1. To provide social networks services except for those prohibited in accordance with the laws.
2. To disclose publicly agreements to provide and use social network services.
3. To have measures to protect secrets in respect of private information, personal information
of users; to inform users the rights and obligations and risks associated with the storage,
exchange and sharing of online information.
4. To ensure the right of users to determine whether to allow organizations, enterprises to use
users personal information.
5. Not to take initiative in providing public information with contents in breach of Article 5 of
this Decree.
6. Be required to co-operate with the state bodies when required in order to eliminate or block
the public information in breach of Article 5 of this Decree.
7. To provide personal information and private information of users in relation to activities of
terrorism, crimes, breaches of law when required by the competent state bodies.
8. To have at least one server system located in Vietnam in order to meet the requirements for
inspection, checking, storage and provision of information of competent state authorities and
to settle complaints of customers with respect to the provision of services in accordance with
regulations of Ministry of Information and Communications.
9. To register, store and manage personal information of persons establishing blogs and those
providing other information via social networks (blogs, forums, etc.) in accordance with
regulations of Ministry of Information and Communications. To ensure that only those having
provided full and accurate personal information in accordance with the laws are allowed to
establish blogs or provide information via social networks.
10. To send reports to, and to be subject to inspection and supervision by the state competent
bodies.
Article 26. Rights and obligations of users of social networks

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In addition to the rights and obligations of users of Internet access services under Article 10 of
this Decree, users of social networks shall have the following obligations:
1. to use social networks services except for those prohibited in accordance with the laws.
2. personal and private information of users shall be protected in accordance with the laws.
3. to comply with the regulations on control, provision and use of social networks.
4. to be responsible for information that is stored, provided, transmitted by themselves via
social networks, or disseminated via the links they directly created.

Section 3 - Provision of Information Content Services in Telecommunications


Networks
Article 27. Provision of information content services in telecommunications networks
1. Organizations, enterprises shall be allowed to provide information content services in
telecommunications networks after having registered to provide information content services in
telecommunications networks in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Information
and Communications.
2. Conditions for registration of providing information content services in telecommunications
networks include:
a) To be an enterprise established under the laws of Vietnam having functions/duties or
business registration certificates for the provision of information content services in
telecommunications networks.
b) To have sufficient financial, technical, organizational, and human capacity in line with the
relevant operation scale.
c) to have measures to ensure information security and safety.
3. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for detailed regulations on the
procedures to register for the provision of information content services in telecommunications
networks; the connectivity of organizations and enterprises providing information content
services with telecommunications enterprises and other regulations relevant to the
management, provision and use of information content services in telecommunications
networks.
Article 28. Rights and obligations of organizations, enterprises providing information content
services in telecommunications networks
Organizations and enterprises providing information content services shall have the following
rights and obligations:

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1. To establish equipment system at the place that is under their sole use in accordance with
the laws and lease telecommunications lines to connect to telecommunications enterprises.
2. To have at least one server system located in Vietnam in order to meet the requirements for
inspection, checking, storage and provision of information of competent state authorities and
to settle complaints of customers with respect to the provision of services in accordance with
regulations of Ministry of Information and Communications.
3. To be allocated telecommunications number store and Internet resources in accordance with
the plan and regulations on management of telecommunications resources.
4. To provide information content services in accordance with the relevant laws ;
5. To promulgate processes and procedures to provide and use services and settle disputes on
the basis of compliance with the regulations on management, storing, transmitting digital
information provided by the Law on Informatics Technology and regulations on anti spams.
6. To provide services in accordance with the quality, tariffs that have been publicized to users.
7. To send reports to, and to be under the inspection and supervision of the relevant state
bodies in accordance with the laws.
Article 29. Rights and obligations of telecommunications enterprises
Telecommunications enterprises shall have the following rights and obligations:
1. To enter into business cooperation with organizations and enterprises providing information
content services in telecommunications networks in accordance with the following principles:
a) to negotiate under fair, reasonable basis and consistent with the rights and interests of the
concerning parties;
b) to effectively use telecommunications resources and infrastructure;
c) to ensure the safety and consistency of telecommunications networks;
d) to secure lawful rights and interests of telecommunications service users and related
organizations, individuals.
) To provide connectivity to organizations and enterprises providing information content
services in telecommunications networks at any point in the telecommunication network that is
technically feasible and to ensure connectivity on a timely, reasonable, open and transparent
manner.
e) Not to discriminate in terms of tariffs, telecommunications technique standards, norms,
network quality and telecommunications services.

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2. To deny to provide connectivity to organizations, enterprises providing information content


services in telecommunications networks that do not satisfy the conditions specified in Clause
1 of Article 27 of this Decree.
3. To suspend or stop connectivity to organizations, enterprises providing information content
services in telecommunications networks that are in breach of regulations on service supply in
the event of a written request from the state competent bodies.
4. To co-operate with organizations, enterprises providing information content services in
telecommunications networks to handle claims and disputes on tariffs, service quality for
users.
5. To send reports to, to be under the supervision, inspection of the state competent bodies in
accordance with the laws.
Article 30 . Rights and obligations
telecommunications networks

of

users

of

information

content

services

in

Users of information content services in telecommunications networks shall have the following
rights and obligations:
1. To use information content services in telecommunications networks except for those
prohibited by laws.
2. To comply with the regulations on service uses of organizations, enterprises providing
information content services in telecommunications networks.
3. To self inspect and to be responsible for the use of the services.
4. To have the right to claim against services that are not those publicized, agreed by the
organizations, enterprises providing information content services in telecommunications
networks.

Chapter IV - Online Games


Article 31. Management principles of online games
1. Online games shall be classified as follows:
a) Classified by means of supply of use of services, online games shall include:
- games with interaction amongst many players at the same time via the server of the
enterprise (hereinafter called game G1).

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- games with interaction between the player and the server of the enterprise (hereinafter called
game G2).
- games with interaction amongst many players themselves but without interaction between
the players and the server of the enterprise (hereinafter called game G3).
- games to be downloaded from websites without interaction amongst players nor between
players and the server of the enterprise (hereinafter called gam G4).
b) Online games in Vietnam shall be classified subject to the contents and script consistent
with the ages of the players.The Ministry of Information and Communications shall promulgate
detailed regulations on classification online games consistent with the ages of players.
2. Enterprises shall be allowed to provide the services only after having obtained a permit for
providing online games and a decision approving the content and scripts for each game by the
Ministry of Information and Communications.
3. Enterprises shall be allowed to provide games G2, G3, G4 after having obtained registration
of online games and issuance of notification of game provision for each online game.
4. Foreign organizations or individuals wishing to provide online games to users in Vietnam
shall have to establish legal entity in accordance with the Vietnamese laws in order to be able
to provide online games in line with this Decree and other regulations on foreign investment.
Article 32. Licensing game G1
1. An enterprise shall be issued a permit to provide game G1 upon compliance with all the
following conditions:
a) to be an enterprise established and operating under the laws of Vietnam, having business
registration certificate providing for online game business.
b) having registered domain names for the provision of services.
c) to have sufficient capability of finance, technique, organisation, human resources consistent
with the business scale.
d) to have measures to ensure information security and safety.
2. The term of a permit for game G1 shall be as requested in the application but cannot exceed
10 years.
3. An enterprise shall be issued a decision approving the contents and scripts of game G1
upon compliance with all the following conditions:
a) to have obtained a permit for provision of online games with validity of at least 01
(one) year;

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b) the contents and scripts of the game shall satisfy the following requirements:
- do not breach the provisions of Clause 1 of Article 5 of this Decree;
- do not have any image, sound causing disgusting, fearful impression; provoke
violence, concupiscence; stir, stimulate obscene, rotten, immoral activities contrary to fine
customs and habits of Vietnam; undermine historical traditions;
- do not have image, sound describing any act such as suicide, drug use, excessively
alcoholic drinking, smoking, terrorism, child torture, child traffic and other harmful or prohibited
acts.
- Other requirements of the Ministry of Information and Communications.
c) To satisfy the professional and technical requirements to provide online games in
accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Information and Communications.
4. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for the detailed conditions,
procedures for issuing, amending, supplementing, extending, withdrawing licenses, decisions
to approve contents and scripts of game G1.
5. The Ministry of Finance in coordination with the the Ministry of Information and
Communications shall stipulate the licensing fees and charges for assessment of contents and
scripts for game G1.
Article 33. Registration for provision of games G2, G3, G4
1. Conditions for registration
a) to be organisations, enterprises established under the laws of Vietnam, having obtained a
business registration certificate for online game provision.
b) to have registered domain names to provide services in the case of Internet-based service
provision.
c) to have sufficient capability of finance, technique, organisation, human resources to provide
games G2, G3, G4 in line with the operation scale.
d) to have measures to ensure
2. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for detailed conditions,
procedures for registration and script confirmations of games G2, G3, G4.
Article 34. Rights and obligations of online game enterprises
Online game enterprises shall have the following rights and obligations:

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1. To lease lines from telecommunications enterprises to connect service provision


equipment system to the public telecommunications networks.
2. To have at least one server system located in Vietnam in order to meet the
requirements for inspection, checking, storage and provision of information of competent state
authorities and to settle complaints of customers with respect to the provision of services in
accordance with regulations of Ministry of Information and Communications.
3. To establish websites for provision of online games having the following details:
a) Classification of online games subject to players ages;
b) Rules of each game
c) Rules on controlling information, controlling activities of the games;
d) Rules to handle claims, disputes on benefits between players and the enterprises,
between players and players;
4. Measures shall have to be taken to mitigate side effects of online games provided
by the enterprise, including :
a) To provide information on games of which contents and scripts have been approved
(for games G1) or games already notified in accordance with the laws (for games G2, G3 and
G4) in advertising programs, in websites of the enterprise and in each game, including such
information as name of game, classification of game by age and recommendations to players
on physical and psychological side effects on players that may occur when playing games.
b) For game G1, to take registration of personal information of players, and to restrict
playing time of children and players under the age of 18 in accordance with the regulations of
the Ministry of Information and Communications.5. To secure the legitimate rights of players in
accordance with the publicised rules; to be responsible before players for the service quality,
information safety, tariff ; to solve disputes between players and the enterprise , and between
players and players.
6. To comply with regulations of the Ministry of Information and Communications on
visual objects (the drawing image of an object or a character in a given rule formed by the
game producer) and bonus points (forms of granting bonuses corresponding to the grades
earned by users from online games) .7. In the case where the enterprise wants to suspend
online game services, it shall provide clear notice in the online game website at least 90 days
before the intended suspension time and shall have measures to protect players interests; to
send a report of the same to the Ministry of Information and Communications 15 days before
the official suspension time.

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8. To take professional and technical measures to control the contents of dialogues


between players in accordance with regulations of the Ministry of Information and
Communications.
9. Not to advertise games of which contents and scripts have not been approved (for
game G1), or those not yet notified in accordance with the rules (for games G2, G3 and G4) in
any forums, websites, newspapers, magazines or other mass media .
10. To pay licensing fee, registration fee, fee for evaluation of contents, scripts of
games in accordance with the laws.
11. To send regular and irregular reports as required by the Ministry of Information and
Communications.
12. To be subject to inspection, supervision of the state competent bodies.
Article 35. Conditions for operation of public online games service points
1. Organizations, individuals shall establish public online game service points only after
having obtained certificates of compliance with the conditions for operation of public online
games service points.
2. Organizations, individuals shall be issued certificates of compliance with the
conditions for provision of public online games upon satisfaction of the following conditions:
a) To have business registration certificate providing for "public online game service
point ".
b) the place of the public online game point shall be at least 200 meters away from the
gate of an elementary, secondary, high school.
c) To have a plate saying public online game service point including details of the
place, address, telephone numbers, business registration code.
d) The total area of computer rooms for a public online game service point shall be at
least 50 m2 in special urban areas, and urban areas of Grade I, II, and III; at least 40 m2 for
urban areas of Grade IV and V; and at least 30 m2 in other areas;
) To ensure sufficient light, equal light in the computer rooms;
e) To have equipment and internal regulations on firefighting and prevention in
accordance with the regulations on fire and explosion fighting and prevention of the Ministry of
Public Security.
g) To pay licensing fee in accordance with the laws.

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3. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for the detailed procedures to
issue, amend, supplement, withdraw, re-issue certificates of compliance with conditions for
public online game service points.
4. Provincial Peoples Committees shall, based upon their respective actual conditions,
authorise the provincial Departments of Information and Communications or district Peoples
Committees to issue, amend, supplement, withdraw, reissue certificates of compliance with
conditions for operation and direct the inspection, supervision of, and handling breaches
committed by, public online game service points under their respective authority.
5. Ministry of Finance shall take the lead and cooperate with Ministry of Information and
Communications to set the fees for issuing Certificate of Compliance with the conditions for
operation of public online game service points.
Article 36. Rights and obligations of owners of public online game service points
Owners of public online game service points shall have the following rights and obligations:
1. To establish equipment system to provide online game services at the place as specified in
the relevant certificate of compliance with conditions for public online game service point.
2. To be provided with Internet access upon signing an Internet agency contract with an
enterprise providing Internet access service.
3. To post online game rules at a place of easy notice, including the prohibited activities under
Article 5 of this Decree; rights and obligations of players in accordance with Article 37 of this
Decree.
4. To post the list of newest games G1 of which contents and scripts have been approved at
the place together with the age classifications for each game (updates from the website of the
Ministry of Information and Communications www.mic.gov.vn);
5. Not to organize or allow Internet users to use computer applications at the place to perform
prohibited activities under Article 5 of this Decree.
6. To request the enterprise with whom the Internet agency contract has been entered into to
provide guidelines and provide information about Internet access service and to be subject to
inspection and supervision by such enterprise.
7. To participate in training courses on Internet and online games organized by state agencies
and enterprises in the respective location.
8. Not to operate from 22.00 to 8.00 everyday.
9. To comply with the regulations to ensure information safety and security.
10. To be under the inspection and supervision of the state competent bodies.

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Article 37. Rights and obligations of players


Players shall have the following rights and obligations:
1. To be allowed to play online games except for those prohibited by laws;
2. To have the rights and obligations of applicable to Internet access users under Article 10 of
this Decree.
3. To select online games that are suitable to their respective ages.
4. Not to make use of online games in websites to conduct illegal activities.
5. To provide full and correct personal information for registration in accordance with the
regulations of the Ministry of Information and Communications.
6. To strictly comply with the regulations to control playing times and business hours of public
online game service points.
7. To be secured by the online game service enterprise in respect of the benefits under the
game rules and the regulations on claim and dispute settlement which are publicized on the
website providing online game services of the enterprise.

Chapter V - Protection of Online Information Security and Safety


Article 38. Principles to protect online information security and safety
1. All organizations, individuals participating in providing and using Internet services and online
information shall be responsible for protecting information security and safety to the extent of
their respective systems; co-operating with state bodies and other organizations , individuals in
protection of information security and safety.
2. The protection of online information security and safety shall be conducted regularly,
constantly, correctly and effectively on the basis of securing the technical standards, norms for
information safety and telecommunications and Internet service quality.
Article 39. State management responsibilities in online information security and safety
1. The Ministry of Information and Communications being responsible for:
a) promulgating, or submitting to the state competent body to promulgate, and organizing the
implementation of regimes, policies, legal instruments, technical standards, norms; strategies,
plans on information safety;.
b) training, improving, developing human resources; researching, applying science and
technology in protection of information safety;

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c) participating in international co-operation in information safety.


d) inspecting, supervising, settling disputes, claims, denunciations, and handling breaches of
regulations on information security and safety.
e) instructing the coordination among agencies in order to protect information safety for
ministries, line agencies, localities and enterprises;
f) taking the lead and cooperating with Ministry of Public Security to provide guidelines to
telecommunications enterprises, Internet access service providers, organizations and
enterprises providing public online information services on arranging the site and gateway, as
well as to take necessary technical measures to ensure information safety and security.
g) providing guidelines on registration, storage and use of personal information uploaded onto
social networks, G1 game players and users of other Internet services; and guidelines on
verification of personal information with the online ID card database of the Ministry of Public
Security.
2. The Ministry of Police shall have the following duties:
a) to issue, or submit to the state competent body to issue, and organize the implementation of
legal instruments on information security.
b) to train, improve and develop human resources; research and applyi science and technology
in protection of information security;
c) participating in international co-operation in information security.
d) to inspect, supervise, settle disputes, claims, denunciations, and handle breaches of
regulations on information security and safety.
e) to organize, direct, and guide the collection, discovery, investigation and process of
information, documents and acts relating to the provision and use of Internet services and
online information to harm national security, social orders and safety, state secrets and other
crimes.
f) to take the lead to establish, organise the establishment, exploitation, connectivity to online
ID card database with service enterprises in order to verify the personal information of users for
the management, provision and use of services and online information..
3. The Government Encoding Agency - Ministry of Defence shall have the following duties:
a) to take the lead to issue and recommend [the competent body to issue] legal instruments on
encoding in the protection of information safety.
b) to take the lead in management of research, manufacturing, trading, using information safety
codes.

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c) to organize the verification, evaluation, and certification of standardization in respect of


products using information safety codes.
4. The Ministry of Education and Training shall have the following duties:
a) To organize to propagate, provide guidelines on Internet to students; to provide guidelines,
favorable conditions to students and direct them to use Internet in helpful and practical
activities in their studies and lives as well as for their families.
b) To apply warning and supervising measures on students to avoid negative effects of harmful
information contents and applications in Internet.
c) To organize training on information safety in the system of universities and colleges in the IT
and communications sector.
5. The Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs shall be responsible for organising the
implementation of measures to protect children and juniors from harmful information contents
and applications in Internet.
6. Other ministries and ministerial agencies shall within their respective powers and duties coordinate with the Ministry of Information and Communications and Ministry of Public Security
to carry out state management on information security and safety.
7. Provincial Peoples Committees shall within their respective powers and duties carry out
state management on information safety and security in their respective provinces.
Article 40. Management of technical standards and norms of information safety
1. Certification of compliance of information system with the technical standards and norms of
information safety (hereinafter called standardization) shall be the certification of information
system to be in line with the technical standards of information safety issued by the Ministry of
Information and Communications and/or standards of information safety required by Ministry of
Information and Communications.
2. Notification of compliance of information system with the technical standards of information
safety (hereinafter called standardization notification) shall be the notification by organizations
and enterprises of the compliance of their information systems with the technical standards of
information safety.
3. Organizations and enterprises having information systems shall carry out the standardization
and and standardization notification with technical standards and norms of information safety
in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Information and Communications.
4. Organizations certifying information safety standardization shall be technical service
professional organizations approved or appointed by the Ministry of Information and
Communications to carry out standardization activities.

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5. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for details regulations on
standardization and notification of information safety; issue the list of information systems that
are subject to standardization and standardization notification; appoint or admit
standardization organizations.
Article 41. Provision of information safety services
1. Information safety services shall be the services to protect information and information
system of organizations, individuals, including consultancy services, inspection and evaluation
services, supervision services of information systems and other related services.
2. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall provide for detailed guidance for the
provision of information safety services.
Article 42. Classification of information systems
1. Classification of information systems shall be the evaluation and determination of the
importance of the information system to the operation of the entire national information and
communications infrastructure, to the socio-economic development and protection of national
security, defence in order to design suitable solutions for protection of information safety and
security.
2. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall take the lead to cooperate with the
Ministry of Policy to prepare and issue regulations on classification of information system
levels, the list of national important information systems, requirements for information security
protection in relation to the national important information systems.
Article 43. Network incident responses
1. Network incident responses are activities to and fix network incidents.
2. Network incident responses shall be carried out in the following principles:
a) swiftly, correctly, timely and effectively.
b) to follow regulations of the Ministry of Information and Communications.
c) to have close co-operation amongst local and international organizations and enterprises.
3. Ministries, ministerial agencies, governmental agencies; telecommunications enterprises,
Internet service enterprises, organizations operating national important information systems
shall be responsible for setting up or designating specialized divisions in charge of emergency
responses to network incidents (CERT) in order to actively implement network incident
emergency responses on their own and co-operate with Vietnam Computer Emergency
Response Team (VNCERT).

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4. The Ministry of Information and Communications shall be responsible for issuing and
providing guidelines on the regulations on network incident emergency responses.
Article 44. Responsibilities of telecommunications enterprises, and organizations in ensuring
information safety and security
Telecommunications enterprises, Internet access service providers, organizations and
enterprises providing public online information, and enterprises providing online games shall
have the following duties:
1. To establish technical systems to protect information safety and security.
2. To provide guidelines to Internet agents, public Internet access points, and public online
game points of the enterprise to apply information security and safety measures.
3. To arrange site and gateways and necessary technical conditions for state competent
authorities to undertake information safety and security actions as required by Ministry of
Information and Communications and Ministry of Public Security.
4. To issue and implement internal operational regulations; procedures to operate, provide and
use services; and regulations to co-operate with the Ministry of Information and
Communications and the Ministry of Policy in ensuring information safety and security.

Chapter VI - Implementation Provisions


Article 45. Validity
1. This Decree shall take effect as from 01 September 2013.
2. This Decree replaces Decree No. 97/2008/N-CP dated 28/8/2008 of the Government on
management, provision, use of Internet services and online information in Internet; By this
Decree, the joint Circular No. 02/2005/TTLT-BCVT-VHTT-CA-KHT dated 14/7/2005 of
Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of
Public Security and Ministry of Planning and Investment on management of Internet agents
and joint Circular No. 60/2006/TTLT-BVHTT-BBCVT-BCA dated 01/6/2006 of Ministry of
Culture and Information, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and Ministry of Public
Security on management of online games are repealed.
Article 46. Implementation
The Minister of Information and Communications shall be responsible for issuing guidelines,
and inspecting the implementation, of this Decree.

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Other Ministers, heads of ministerial agencies, heads of agencies under the Government,
Chairmans of provincial Peoples Committees and relevant organizations and individuals shall
be responsible for implementing this Decree./.
Recipients:
ON BEHALF OF THE GOVERNMENT
- Secretary Committee of the Central Committee of
the Vietnamese Communist Party;
- The Prime Minister and his Deputies;
- Ministries, ministerial agencies and agencies under
the Government;
- The Office of the Central Steering Committee of
Anti Corruption;
Nguyn Tn Dng
- Peoples Committees and Peoples Council of
Provinces;
- The office of the Central Committee and other
committees of the Party;
- The office of the State President;
- The Ethnic Council and committees of the National
Assembly;
- The Office of the National Assembly;
- The Supreme Peoples Court;
- The Supreme Peoples Prosecution Institution;
- The State Audit Agency;
- The National Financial Supervision Committee;
- The Social Policies Bank;
- The Vietnam Development Bank;
- Central Committee of the Fatherland Front;
- Central committees of social associations;
- The office of the Government, the Minister
Chairman and his Deputies, the electronic gateway,
the divisions, agencies and the Office Gazette;
- Filing: Secretariat, KTN (5b), Social Affairs

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