Vietnam Firewalls Facebook

Facebook’s 1 million Vietnamese users are having trouble accessing the popular social networking site since early November, and could soon be blocked entirely from using the service, reports the IPS news agency. Sources at telecom companies in the country have admitted being asked by Vietnamese government officials to block Facebook. The government has denied any involvement with the access problems people are having.

A purported government circular has been circulating since August on the Internet. It instructs the country’s Internet service providers to block a handful of websites, including Facebook. Users are still able to thwart the blocking by going through anonynmous proxy sites for now. Other sites on the list, such as ‘viettalk24′, could also not be accessed as of early this week. Twitter, arguably a bigger threat to totalitarian governments seeking to control dissent and public opinion, remains accessible.

The vast majority of Facebook users are on it for personal reasons, chatting with friends and family, posting photos and playing games, rather than organizing opposition to government policies. One exception, according to the IPS report was that:

“earlier this year a group of activists against Chinese bauxite mining in Vietnam’s Central Highlands had organized via Facebook…The multi-billion dollar project has drawn widespread criticism, with environmental concerns and distrust of Vietnam’s huge northern neighbor topping the list. Even General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and is revered as a national hero, wrote an editorial denouncing the project.”