Nearly 50 activists, journalists, and media groups release an open letter questioning why Facebook has been taking down their content.
Activists and journalists in Vietnam are slamming Facebook for facilitating regime crackdowns on dissent.
On Monday, nearly 50 activists and media groups from the country published an open letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg accusing his company of suppressing free speech.
“While we applaud Facebook’s efforts to fight disinformation in open societies, your efforts are carried out with such a broad brush that it is hurting communities in closed and closing spaces, such as Vietnam,” the letter says.
Prior to 2017, Facebook was helpful in keeping their content online, they say. But since last year, it has reversed course and prevented citizen journalists from publishing posts on sensitive topics. It takes down content and suspends accounts without explanation, the letter adds.
So far, Facebook hasn’t commented. But Vietnam has a reputation for internet censorship. In December, it deployed a 10,000-strong “cyber warrior” army to fight misinformation and anti-state propaganda.
Facebook has been facing pressure from local authorities to comply with the content takedowns. Last April, a company executive reportedly discussed streamlining the whole process with a Vietnamese government official. “There are online groups of government trolls coordinating mass reporting of activist accounts and celebrating their accomplishments when accounts and pages are taken down by Facebook,” the letter claims.
The groups want “a direct and open dialogue with local stakeholders,” they write. “Without a nuanced approach, Facebook risks enabling and being complicit in government censorship.”
Facebook is also facing criticism over its handling of content in Myanmar. Last week, civil society groups in the country sent an open letter to Zuckerberg, criticizing him for distorting his company’s efforts to stop bad actors from inciting violence over his platform. In response, he apologized for the incident and said his company is working to stop abuse over the platform.