Communist regimes and dictators really do not like Facebook. We’ve written about China blocking Facebook on an ongoing basis, and now Vietnam is possibly blocking the site as well. According to Ben Stockton of AP, “Over the last week, access to Facebook has been intermittent in the country, whose government tightly controls the flow of information.” We’ve seen access to Facebook limited before but this is the first time we’ve heard of issues in Vietnam.
While we’ve reached out to Facebook, we’ve yet to hear back from the company. Vietnam currently has approximately 1 million users according to Facebook’s own advertising estimates. The primary source of concerns about Facebook being shut down, is “an unauthenticated document circulating on the internet—which says it was issued by Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security”. The document, “instructs Internet service providers to block Facebook”.
While Facebook has been seen by some as a tool for spreading democracy around the world, the biggest hurdle to doing so is clearly regimes who decide to block the site all together. Whether it’s Iran, Vietnam, China, or other countries, censoring the internet is critical to the survival of oppressive regimes. For the time being we’ll have to wait and see how this story evolves, but it appears that Facebook may have to deal with yet another country blocking access to the rapidly expanding site.
Facebook has provided us with the following statement: “We have seen media reports that users in Vietnam are having problems accessing Facebook. We would be very disappointed if users in any country were to have difficulties accessing Facebook.” In other words, they aren’t confirming or denying issues but they pointed us to the following site which reports on websites that are inaccessible. However the level of inaccessibility appears to be relatively low. We’re reaching out to a few other people to see if we can get any more information.