The Bill on Cyber Security was made public to get voters’ feedback in March 2017. Before casting their votes, deputies to the National Assembly still discussed over differences in some articles, such as those in Article 10 and 26. Agencies responsible for preparing the law and the National Assembly listened to feedback from relevant agencies, scientists, and people to amend the Bill so that it was adopted at the high support rate of 86.86% of the deputies’ votes.

(Photo for illustration)

On June 28, 2018, the Presidential Office held a press conference to announce the President’s order to promulgate the Law on Cyber Security and other six laws which had been adopted by the National Assembly. The Law on Cyber Security will become effective on January 1, 2019.

However, many Western news and press agencies and websites whose servers located outside Vietnam have deliberately distorted the law and prevented it from taking effect. They argue that “the Law on Cyber Security paves the way of a new crackdown!”; “the law causes concerns on human rights and imposes negative impacts on national trade”…

After the Law on Cyber Security was adopted by the National Assembly, some overseas websites instructed domestic evils to incite people to demonstrate and make chaos in some areas. The banners of these demonstrations had been printed and distributed before they took place. It can be confirmed that hostile forces prepared a detailed and comprehensive plan to distort and prevent the Law on Cyber Security to become effective.

Why does Vietnam need the Law on Cyber Security? Does this law violate people’s rights and interests or prevent Vietnam from implementing international commitments that the country signed? What are the purposes of the hostile forces when they try to prevent the law from becoming effective?

First of all, why does Vietnam need the Law on Cyber Security?

Differentiating from the previous historical period when protecting the Fatherland meant defending the land, space, and waters of the country, today the meaning is broadened and comprises of protecting national cyber space. The fact shows that since the introduction of the Internet and social media, these inventions have been abused to gather forces, incite demonstrations, cause chaos, and call to overthrow governments. Today, hostile forces have a new method to use the Internet and social media to attack agencies and organizations, and even cause chaos and overthrow social regimes such as hacking to cause social, economic, and political problems. For instance, in March 2017, hackers attacked a series of domestic airports’ websites so that many flights were delayed or cancelled.

The Internet and social media have been used to disinform, to defraud or threaten to expose privacy that has disturbed family life and forced some people to commit suicide.

More dangerously, the hostile forces planned to use the Internet and social media to overthrow the regime and State by inciting people to gather and protest “non-violently” to cause social and political instability. Therefore, Vietnam needs to have a strict and clear sanction against this kind of criminal.

Second, does this law violate people’s rights and interests or prevent Vietnam from implementing international commitments that the country signed?

The Law on Cyber Security comprises of 7 chapters with 43 articles. The principles to protect cyber security are: (1) Abiding by the Constitution and Law; ensuring the State’s interest and organizations’ and individuals’ rights and legal interests; (2) Under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the unified management of the State; …(3) Closely combining protecting cyber security and… ensuring human rights, citizens’ rights, and facilitating organizations and individuals to operate in the cyber space... (Article 4)

The law only regulates sanctions on using the cyber space to conduct activities against the State or violating organizations’ and individuals’ rights and interests. Those activities include: (1) Organizing, operating, cooperating, inciting, bribing, cheating, engaging, educating, and training people to stand against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; (2) Distorting history, denying revolutionary achievements, and sabotaging national great solidarity…; (3) Disinforming to make people panic and damage socio-economic activities… violate other organizations’ and individuals’ rights and interests; (4) Conducting prostitute activities, social evils, human trafficking; publishing pornographic or criminal information; destructing national fine tradition and custom…; (5) Inciting, engaging, or provoking others to commit crimes… (6) Taking advantage of or abusing activities of protecting cyber security to violate national sovereignty, interests, and security, social order and safety, organizations’ and individuals’ rights and interests, or to one’s own benefits” (Article 8)

Does the Law on Cyber Security violate Vietnam’s commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) or not and will digital giants like Google and Facebook leave Vietnam?

According to the Proposal of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee to the National Assembly, the basic agreements within WTO (GATT and GATS), of which Vietnam is a member, and the CPTPP which Vietnam has signed, all include security exceptions. Accordingly, Vietnam is entitled to request domestic and international businesses that provide services via telecommunications networks, the Internet, or cyberspace in Vietnam to store important database of the users in Vietnam and install servers in the country. It is reported that 18 WTO members, including the US, Canada, Australia, Germany and France, apply a compulsory regulation that Internet-based businesses must store data in their countries.

What will happen to digital giants, such as Google and Facebook which are operating in Vietnam? Vietnam is a big market for them. Moreover, providing services on the Internet is a market that countries can choose by their own viewpoints. For Vietnam, protecting and ensuring national cyber security is a top priority. These are things that Google and Facebook must consider. Recently, on July 5, Facebook, the biggest social network had to correct and apologize Vietnam after wrongly naming Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands in Chinese waters, striking protests from Vietnamese net citizens and the Ministry of Information and Communications.

In terms of individuals', organizations’, and businesses’ rights and interests, absolutely the Law on Cyber Security does not restrict these rights and interests as its sanctions are on behaviors of committing offenses (via the Internet and social media – Article 8). Contrarily, the law protects and ensures people and businesses to have a truthful and healthy information environment without pollution like that in the air, water, and food today.

Third, what are the purposes of the hostile forces when they try to prevent the law from becoming effective?

Unlike the Media Law, the Law on Accessing to Information, Decrees of the Government on managing, providing, and using internet and information services … the Law on Cyber Security includes specific regulations to exclude bad and harmful information from its roots that the hostile forces are using to sabotage the society and the State of Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Law on Cyber Security serves as a legal foundation to handle those who take use of the Internet and social media to offend and sabotage the society and State, and harm Vietnamese individuals and businesses. Pursuant to this law, relevant agencies have rights to ask Internet operators to provide enough information of the accounts that disseminate evil information… and this makes the evil worry the most.

Translated by Nam Long