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Vietnam's Internet decree receives backlash from US embassy in Hanoi

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Facebook has emerged in recent years as a "crucial platform" for Vietnam's bloggers, Mr. Crispin writes. Facebook had more than 11 million registered users in Vietnam at the beginning of 2013, according to a study by Jana, a technology research group based in Boston.  

"Vietnam's in a tough spot," says Zachary Abuza, a professor of political science at Simmons College. Vietnam is trying to join the US-sponsored Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would require Vietnam to have a good human rights record, says Mr. Abuza. The Vietnamese government is unsure how to balance its desire to control the Internet with its economic interests.  

President Obama met with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang to discuss the TPP in late July at the White House. Vietnam's record on human rights, specifically Vietnam’s crackdown on political bloggers, was a main point of contention that could harm Vietnam's chances of partnering with the US in this bilateral trade agreement. However, despite Obama's acknowledgements of Vietnam's human rights record, TPP talks have continued.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that there are 14 imprisoned journalists in Vietnam, and Reporters Without Borders places Vietnam on its "Enemies of the Internet" list, alongside Bahrain, Cuba, and Iran. 

Vietnam also runs the risk of angering foreign investors with its expanding repertoire of Internet laws. 

Whereas China carries enough Internet customers to negotiate country-specific search settings with Internet companies such as Google, Vietnam does not have the same clout, says Abuza.

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