Facebook is once again under fire from members of Congress—this time, for censoring political posts in Vietnam.
A bipartisan group of 17 U.S. representatives sent a letter Monday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, urging them to rebuff the Vietnamese government’s demands to remove posts it deems politically sensitive.
“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,” the letter reads. “The censorship of the accounts of Vietnamese-Americans is particularly concerning.”
Vietnam has looked to China’s extreme internet censorship regime as a model, as the ruling Communist Party has sought to crack down on dissident speech and political organizing. Vietnam has jailed users for posting content the government deemed politically sensitive. A new cybersecurity law, passed in June and closely resembling a Chinese law passed last year, will make it easier for authorities to monitor what people post online and require certain kinds of user data to be stored locally when it takes effect on Jan. 1. Apple drew fire for acquiescing to China’s demands earlier this year and storing the data of its Chinese users on servers located in China, where it can be easily obtained by authorities there.
The new law in Vietnam requires internet companies such as Facebook and Google to remove content within 24 hours of receiving a government request.
The letter from the members of Congress, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Vietnam Caucus chairs Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) asks the two companies to refuse to store data in Vietnam, to publish the number of requests they receive to remove content, and to be transparent about any censorship.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) will send the same letter tomorrow, according to a release sent out by the group. In the letter, the lawmakers write:
“If the Vietnamese government is coercing your companies to aid and abet censorship, this is an issue of concern that needs to be raised diplomatically and at the highest levels.”