Facebook's Vietnam War


UPDATE: This week (Jan 12, 2011) the government of Vietnam appears to be blocking Facebook more comprehensively. I wonder if FB ever managed to hire the person in the adjoining ad. One skillset they requested was someone who could keep the site from getting blocked!

Interesting post in The Economist’s blog has an update on Vietnam’s occasional ban of Facebook.

While Vietnam’s government has similar concerns to the Chinese government about allowing unfettered use of social media tools, the Internet blocks have never been so strong. One of the world’s fastest growing Internet population, Vietnam’s Internet population is already about 24 million users or more than a quarter of the total population.

As it has been explained to me, unlike China – where the government owns the links to the outside world – Vietnam’s links to the global Internet are run by private companies.

While it may seem to make little difference on one level, since these companies will want to obey the government’s orders to block a website, it does also give the companies an economic incentive to ignore something that would be unpopular among their customers.

As a result, Vietnam’s government orders a block on a site like Facebook are follow and ignored in equal measures. There has never been a blanket ban of the sort imposed by Beijing on the Internet.

The Economist highlights the irony that even as Vietnam’s government issues orders for Internet service providers to block Facebook, Nokia’s launch strategy for their latest phone is build around allowing Vietnamese to access Facebook!

Other social networks have been aiming to capitalize on Facebook’s issues, with Korean-backed Zingme making inroads among teenagers. The government itself launched go.vn in May, its own offering which requires users to give their full names and government ID numbers. The government has said they want to attract 40 million users.

Given the lack of clarity about Facebook’s status in Vietnam, it only seems appropriate that the attached advertisement placed by Facebook for a position in Vietnam required someone bilingual in English/Vietnamese and “comfortable in ambiguous situations”.

Leave a Reply


  1. SteveJackson

    The very odd part of it all is that Facebook is not officially banned. It is not illegal to use Facebook nor to use a workaround to get past the blocks.

    In fact there has never been, to my knowledge, an absolute admission by the government that they blocked it. One day I fully expect to switch on the computer and find it has returned.

    I do believe that this has at least as much to do with commerce as censorship. The government has also stated that it can make its own Yahoo and Google. While obviously the possibility of creating software to suit their own needs is tempting I do feel they are just as much looking at this and realising quite how much money could be made.

    In the end though Facebook use is widespread and they aren't going to be able to put the genie back in the bottle. The party elections are taking place in spring. Before that we will have tighter controls. After that we may start to see whether the near future is one of more or less freedoms.

  2. “One day I fully expect to switch on the computer and find it has returned” … when China is a Democratic Country. Yes.

    But you're putting a tremendous amount of faith in the healing powers of modern medicine to think you'll live to be 500 years old. 😉

  3. SteveJackson

    I was talking about Vietnam.

  4. Dan

    My daughter is studying in Vietnam. She, and every single one of her friends, both foreign and Vietnamese, are on Facebook. If you are in Saigon, there might as well be no ban at all.

  5. Karlo Sevilla

    There was an occasional ban? I was in Hanoi for two weeks last July. Facebook and Spankwire were easily accessible…

  6. Henry Miguel

    Blocked again… as of today

  7. In Vietnam, the pipes are owned by companies that are majority owned (>50%) and thus when push comes to shove, controlled by the Vietnamese government.

    And Zing Me is locally built and developed, and has no Korean backing.

  8. H Blankermann

    Hello Henry, any ideas about how to access Facebook again? We knew our way around before, but for the last couple of days, I haven't been able to figure out how to access FB again. Any ideas?

  9. Starzzzinmind

    we got this real resume writer things over here and there, and you are the right one to deal with

  10. Knudsenjunior

    How do you do it? I'm struggling here. =)

  11. Rosakarlsson

    FB blocket again 🙁 It's been blocked now for almost 1 week. Does anyone now how to access?

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