Vietnam adopts new policies for Net users

/ Source: The Associated Press

Web surfers in Vietnam must abide by a number of new policies and restrictions, which come following a crackdown on cyber dissidents who used the Internet to speak out against the communist government, state-controlled media reported.

Many of the new requirements, which went into effect in March and were publicized this week by Vietnamese media, involve Internet cafes where many Vietnamese access the Web. Personal identification information must now be presented before logging on and will be stored for 30 days on computer servers, and all Internet activity will be tracked, according to the An Ninh The Gioi (World's Security) newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Ministry of Public Security.

"IDs or passports are now required at Internet cafes just like at boarding gates for flights," Nguyen Minh Vinh, a police officer who helped write the new policy, was quoted Wednesday by the paper as saying.

Decision No. 71 also requires Internet cafe owners to document the time each user spends online and to update software to keep users from bypassing firewalls, the paper said. Those who fail to comply could be fined up to $3,200 or face prosecution, according to the Official Gazette where the decision was first published.

The decision also prohibits using the Internet to disseminate "state secrets" and calls for measures to be taken to stop acts that "infringe upon national security or social order and safety," according to the Gazette.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung on Thursday declined to comment on the new policies.

About 4 million out of Vietnam's 81 million people access the Internet. There are about 57,000 foreign Web sites specializing or relating to Vietnam, the An Ninh The Gioi said.

The communist government has cracked down on users accessing the Web for political or religious dissent. Several cyber dissidents have received lengthy sentences over the past two years.

Last week, Nguyen Vu Binh, a former journalist with a communist journal, had his seven-year jail sentence upheld by an appeals court in Hanoi. He was convicted of espionage for posting an article on the Internet criticizing the Vietnamese government.