HANOI (Reuters) - The United States has urged Vietnam to delay a vote on a proposed cybersecurity law, the U.S. Embassy said on Friday, amid widespread concern the law would cause economic harm and stifle online dissent in the communist-ruled country.
Vietnamese lawmakers are set to vote on the proposed cybersecurity legislation this month. It aims to impose new legal requirements on internet companies and intensifies policing of online dissent.
Facebook, Google and other global companies are pushing back hard against provisions outlined by the bill that would require them to store personal data locally on users in Vietnam and open offices in the country.
“The United States ... urge(s) Vietnam to delay the vote on the draft law to ensure it aligns with international standards,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.
“We find the draft cyber law ... may present serious obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation future, and may not be consistent with Vietnam’s international trade commitments,” it said.
Trade and foreign investment are key to Vietnam’s export-driven economic growth, while its leaders have been promoting technology for growth.
The Vietnam Digital Communication Association (VCDA) had said of the latest draft that it could reduce Vietnam’s gross domestic product by 1.7 percent and wipe off 3.1 percent of foreign investment if it comes into effect.
The proposed law has also raised fears among activists about tougher restrictions on the voicing of dissent online.
“This bill, which squarely targets free expression and access to information, will provide yet one more weapon for the government against dissenting voices,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
The rights group urged Vietnam to revise the draft law and bring it into compliance with international legal standards.
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 dealing with dissent.
Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Robert Birsel