Lofgren leads Bipartisan Letter to Facebook and Google: Don’t Aid and Abet Censorship in Vietnam

July 17, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Following passage of a new law in Vietnam that severely curtails privacy rights of Vietnamese citizens, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) joined her Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam calling for the heads of Google and Facebook to live up to their firms’ stated missions to promote openness and connectivity in Vietnam.

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the Members of Congress explain the new cybersecurity law enacted by the Vietnamese government “contravenes existing trade provisions and international covenants of human rights.”

The letter reads:

“The cyber law does nothing to protect internet users. Rather, it is a blatant effort by the Vietnamese government to crack down on online expression by enlisting the help of leading technology companies – especially Facebook and Google – as the law requires the removal of content within 24 hours of receiving a request from the Minister of Public Security or the Ministry of Information and Communications.

“It is already being reported that your companies have removed video and accounts after requests by the Vietnamese government, including accounts of users in California and Germany. These are very troubling developments that we hope you can help us understand. The censorship of the accounts of Vietnamese-Americans is particularly concerning.”

The letter specifically asks that Facebook and Google:

  1. Refrain from storing user data within Vietnam if doing so means the data can be seized at any time by the Vietnamese government.
  2. Establish transparent guidelines with respect to content removal.
  3. Promptly publish the number of requests from the Vietnamese government to remove content, as well as the number of times each company complied with such requests.
  4. Promptly and confidentially share with the relevant Congressional Committees all requests for user data from the Vietnamese authorities and indicate which ones were complied with.

The Members of Congress conclude the letter by offering the diplomatic weight of the U.S. government to assist the firms if they are being coerced to aid and abet the Vietnamese government’s censorship.

Lofgren, Lowenthal, and Smith were joined by U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Scott H. Peters (D-Calif.), Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.).

A similar letter from U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was also sent to the CEOs on Tuesday.

A full copy of the letter can be found here.

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