Vietnam sets up command center for cyberspace defense

By Reuters, VnExpress   January 8, 2018 | 08:42 am PT
The new unit would 'research and predict online wars', the defense ministry said in a report on the government website.

Vietnam announced on Monday the creation of a cyberspace operations command to protect its sovereignty on the Internet, with prime minister citing risks related to the disputed East Sea and complex regional and global situations.

The new unit would "research and predict online wars", the defense ministry said in a report on the government website, which also reported Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc's comments.

Vietnam is locked in a long-running territorial dispute with China in the East Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea. While Phuc singled out the East Sea, he made no mention of China.

"To protect the country in the new situation, the Communist Party has set a high priority on protection of the State in cyberspace," the website quoted Phuc as saying at the foundation ceremony for the new unit.

In December, Vietnam revealed it had a cyber warfare unit of 10,000 staff, named Force 47, to counter what it said were "wrong" views on the Internet, local media reported.

The government has also called for closer watch over social media networks and sought the removal of content that it deemed offensive.

Facebook obliged last year by removing 159 anti-government accounts, while Google removed around 4,500 videos containing bad or toxic content from YouTube out of 5,000 videos requested to be taken down.

In an article in August, President Tran Dai Quang, a former Minister of Public Security, called for tougher controls on the internet and highlighted threats to cyber-security.

He said hostile forces had used the internet to organize offensive campaigns that "undermined the reputation of leaders of the party and the state, with a negative impact on cadres, party members and the people."

Quang said Vietnam needed to focus more on controlling online information, especially on social networks, and needed an effective solution "to prevent news sites and blogs from carrying bad or dangerous content".

Vietnam has around 50 million internet users, or more than half of the population, and as many social media accounts.

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