Facebook’s Vietnam War
Dec 5, 2010
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”.