Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Vietnam's Government-Hired Propaganda Bloggers

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, January 16 2013

The Vietnamese government acknowledged last week that up to 1,000 bloggers and online tastemakers in the country are hired propaganda agents, enlisted to steer Internet discourse towards support of Communist policies. These mercenary netizens have been a vocal presence in the Vietnamese blogosphere and on social media over the past few years, espousing pro-governmental opinions and attacking dissidents.

Vietnam has maintained one of the worst records of freedom of expression in the Internet age, ranking only six places ahead of North Korea on the Press Freedom Index this past year. Late last month, the prominent pro-democracy blogger Le Quoc Quan was arrested for tax evasion, a charge frequently levied against outspoken dissidents to get them behind bars. Like many states attempting to keep control of political organization and dissidence online, the Vietnamese government has attempted to adopt legislation over the past year that would greatly expand state control over the Internet.

The propaganda bloggers have so far served as a kind of crowd-driven censorship army; while, as the BBC reported, there isn’t evidence that any of these people are on the official government payroll, the Hanoi propaganda minister praised the bloggers for their role in reducing the number of public protests in the city in between 2011 and 2012.

That Vietnamese authorities have taken to such measures might indicate that the government won’t be able to keep up with popular discourse for long. Internet use in Vietnam has exploded over the past decade, and citizens have taken to mobile and social media to share information that might otherwise be downplayed in state media on their own terms. For a tightly controlled one-party state like Vietnam, this could spell a shaky dance between state doctrine and a public that increasingly demands openness.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

News Briefs

RSS Feed friday >

First POST: Scary Monsters

Facebook opens up about its experiments on tweaking voting behavior; breaking news in the FCC net neutrality battle; getting hard data on civic tech's impact on political efficacy; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: System-Gaming

Why techies interested in political reform are facing challenges; the latest data on Democratic voter contacts in 2014; Hungary's anti-Internet tax demonstrations are getting huge; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Gimme Shelter

The link between intimate partner violence and surveillance tech; the operational security set-up that connected Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden; how Senate Dems are counting on tech to hold their majority; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Tribes

Edward Snowden on the Internet's impact on political polarization; trying to discern Hillary Clinton's position on NSA reform; why Microsoft is bullish on civic tech; and much, much more GO

monday >

First POST: Inventions

How voter data-sharing among GOP heavyweights is still lagging; why Facebook's News Feed scares news publishers; Google's ties to the State Department; and much, much more. GO

More