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Free Speech In Cyberspace

3714 words - 15 pages

Long ago, the Freedom of Speech has been bestowed upon us as a natural human right. This natural human right is guaranteed to the citizens of the United States under the U.S. Constitution. In the Bill of Rights, Amendment I, it states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”[1] Freedom of speech, in the past, pertained mostly to written, spoken or televised media. However, in recent years, with the Internet explosion, freedom of speech has reached a new frontier. In the United States, citizens are allowed to freely distribute information on the Internet as they desire so long as laws are not being broken. Many countries have followed in the footsteps of the United States and granted their citizens the same basic human right. However, there are other countries in the world whose citizens are not afforded these rights. Vietnam is one such country. The Internet explosion has enveloped Vietnam and mesmerized its citizens. With the newfound means of communications, the Internet was the one and only place citizens of Vietnam could freely speak their minds. This freedom was short lived, however. Knowing that freedom of speech is notoriously bad for Communist governments, the Communist regime in Vietnam quickly squelched the flow of free information. It rapidly took actions against political dissidents and curious youths who used the Internet as a means of freely expressing their opinions. The government has instilled many measures of censorship to safeguard the future of the Communist Party of Vietnam. These measures of censorship over the Internet have severely limited the freedom of speech for Vietnamese citizens.

The Internet is a relatively new concept in Vietnam. Vietnam’s entrance into the digital world began with the main Internet pioneer, NetNam. NetNam was founded in 1994 by the Institute of Information Technology.[2] It operated a bulletin board service (BBS) and online forums. Its main purpose was to promote research and academics. Most of its initial users were foreign nationals living in Vietnam. However, with time, the user base expanded to include some Vietnamese citizens. The number of Vietnamese citizen using NetNam’s bulletin board service and online forums were extremely limited due to fear of government monitoring.[3] NetNam’s main hubs are located in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.[4] The Internet was officially launched in Vietnam on November 19, 1997.[5] Since the launch of the Internet in Vietnam, its popularity has grown significantly.

In August of 2003, the number of Internet users was estimated to be approaching 2.5 million people.[6] Vietnam’s current population is 80 million people.[7] Although only three percent of the Vietnamese population is currently using...

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