LA Times Concerned by Facebook Censorship – in Vietnam

Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg

In a recent article, the Los Angeles Times outlines how Facebook collaborates with the authoritarian Vietnamese government to shut down dissent within the country while publicly claiming to be a platform of free speech in the United States. The corporate media expresses grave concerns about the company’s censorship in the communist nation without mentioning its censorship of the New York Post‘s Biden bombshells.

In an article titled “Facebook Touts Free Speech. In Vietnam, it’s Aiding in Censorship,” the Los Angeles Times describes Facebook’s effort to censor users in Vietnam that speak out against the country’s authoritarian communist government. The LA Times uses the example of a chemistry teacher turned blogger named Bui Van Thuan who published multiple Facebook posts relating to a land dispute between villagers and the communist government.

The posts related to the village of Dong Tam, based outside of Hanoi, where residents were fighting  efforts by government authorities to size farmland to build a factory. Thuan condemned the country’s leaders in a Facebook post stating: “Your crimes will be engraved on my mind. I know you — the land robbers — will do everything, however cruel it is, to grab the people’s land.”

Shortly after this, Thuan’s account was suspended from Facebook following pressure by the government. A day later, police stormed Dong Tam, resulting in a village leader and three officers being killed. Thuan remained suspended from Facebook for three months, then Facebook informed him that his suspension would be permanent.

The Los Angeles Times writes:

Facebook, whose site was translated into Vietnamese in 2008, now counts more than half the country’s people among its account holders. The popular platform has enabled government critics and pro-democracy activists — in both Vietnam and the United States — to bypass the communist system’s strict controls on the media.

But in the last several years, the company has repeatedly censored dissent in Vietnam, trying to placate a repressive government that has threatened to shut Facebook down if it does not comply, The Times found.

In interviews, dozens of Vietnamese activists, human rights advocates and former Facebook officials say the company has blocked posts by hundreds of users, often with little explanation.

Facebook has also barred Hanoi’s critics — including a Southern California-based opposition group — from buying ads to boost readership and has failed to stop pro-government trolls from swamping the platform to get dissidents’ posts removed
Instead of using its leverage as Vietnam’s biggest media platform to hold the line against censorship, Facebook has, in effect, become an accomplice in the government’s intensifying repression of pro-democracy voices, critics say.

Dipayan Ghosh, a former public policy advisor at Facebook who co-directs the Digital Platforms & Democracy Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School, commented on the situation stating: “I think for Zuckerberg the calculus with Vietnam is clear: It’s to maintain service in a country that has a huge population and in which Facebook dominates the consumer internet market, or else a competitor may step in. The thought process for the company is not about maintaining service for free speech. It’s about maintaining service for the revenue.”

Breitbart News recently reported on the New York Post’s story that indicated that Joe Biden may have met with an adviser to the board of Burisma while he was Vice President, arranged by his son Hunter, who was working as a lobbyist for the company at the time. Joe Biden has previously said, “I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.”

However, the leaked emails appear to show that Hunter introduced his father to a Bursima executive less than a year before Biden, acting as Vice President, pressured the Ukrainian government into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company. Shortly after the story broke, many found themselves having trouble sharing it across social media. This censorship comes just weeks after executives from both Facebook and Twitter joined the Biden transition team.

Data analysis firm Newswhip compiled a report on the story’s engagement across social media which shows that roughly 1.94 million people engaged with the Post’s story in the first 24 hours after it was published. As of last Sunday, around 2.12 million readers had engaged with the story. These engagement numbers mean Zuckerberg’s Facebook successfully suppressed about half of the article’s engagement, but the LA Times remains unconcerned.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at


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