As The Diplomat reported on 10 May 2023, an amendment will be made to the Telecommunications Law later in 2023, introducing a mandatory identity verification for social media users, thus further restricting freedom of expression online.
World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller explains: “For many citizens, social media sites have more or less replaced other sources of information such as newspapers. Indeed, Vietnam is the country with the seventh largest number of Facebook users in the world, and sixth largest of TikTok users. As a result, scams and internet fraud has become a very serious problem, both for the country and wider region. However, the new regulations can, at the same time, be used to stifle criticism, opposition or, as the Ministry of Information stated when announcing a probe into TikTok, ‘against anything toxic, offensive, false and superstitious which poses a threat to the country’s youth, culture and tradition.’ Christian content can be very easily subsumed under this broad classification. In addition, Catholics and, to a lesser extent, Protestants, have a history of activism dealing with social justice and environmental issues. The new regulations will make it easier for the authorities to target such Christian activists and other citizens perceived as dissidents.”