US is worried about Vietnam's proposed cybersecurity law, fearing economic harm and threat to online dissent

US and activists’ fear that Vietnam's the new legislation will cause economic harm and crackdown on online dissent in the communist-ruled country.

The United States has raised concerns with Vietnam about its proposed cybersecurity law, the US Embassy said on Thursday, amid activists’ fears the new legislation will cause economic harm and crackdown on online dissent in the communist-ruled country.

Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

The concerns were conveyed by deputy US trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish in a meeting with Vietnam’s deputy prime minister Vuong Dinh Hue.

Gerrish “raised US concerns about Vietnam’s proposed cybersecurity law, including the impact of localization requirements and restrictions on cross-border services for the future development and growth of Vietnam’s economy,” the US Embassy in Hanoi said in a statement.

Facebook, Google and other global companies are pushing back hard against provisions outlined by the proposed law that would require them to store personal data locally on users in Vietnam and open offices in the country.

But they have not taken the same tough stance on parts of the proposed law that would bolster the government’s crackdown on online political activism.

The latest draft of the cybersecurity law, also released on Thursday, retained the requirement to store personal data locally.

The Vietnam Digital Communication Association (VCDA) said of the latest draft that it could reduce Vietnam’s GDP by 1.7 percent and wipe off 3.1 percent of foreign investment if it comes into effect.

The VCDA said that particular requirement should be removed, citing similar rules in Indonesia it said were “hard to implement in reality”.

It also said the regulation would increase the cost to both foreign and Vietnamese firms, hamper Vietnam’s attractiveness among foreign investors, and potentially violate Vietnam’s international commitments.

The draft law bans humiliating or slanderous content, “propaganda against the state of Vietnam,” and the incitement of riots or disturbance of public order.

If passed, the law would require social media companies in Vietnam to remove offending content from their platforms within one day of receiving a request from the Ministry of Information and Communications, and Vietnam’s Ministry of Security, the government body tasked with oppressing dissent in the country.

The VCDA said the requirements for identifying illegal content under the law are unclear, incomplete, and “risk of infringing upon the basic economic and political rights of citizens,” in Vietnam.

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a final draft of the law on 15 June.

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