Investigate Facebook in Vietnam for the gross violations of freedom of expression!

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May 26, 2018, D., a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl made a post on her Facebook account, in which she detailed the abuse she suffered at the hands of her eldest sister’s husband, whom she referred to as “it.” After the post had been deleted, D.’s abuser used his connections to newspapers to publicly denounce D., saying it was all fake. He even claimed D. tried to attack him and his children with a pair of scissors, which was proven false by D.’s classmates and friends, because D. was actually using the scissors for self-defense when he charged into her room, before her sister and the housemaid intervened. He went on to say that D. was a bad pupil, she got very horrible marks and was actually the lowest-ranked student in her 7th grade year which was also proven false by her friends, some of whom are currently studying with her in a class specialized in Biology at Hanoi-Amsterdam High School, probably the most prestigious, most selective high school in the country. In addition, he claimed she was violent and could hit her friends at any time. D., also proven by her friends to be a silent bookworm, was the opposite of that. Even D.’s other elder sister, who has been abroad for 4 years, whom D. found “futile” reaching out to, comes out to defend her brother-in-law, saying that her sister was a genius for making up the entire story and that her brother-in-law was too good a person to ever abuse anyone. Rumors circulate around the Internet that her parents—one of which is the director of a central maternity hospital— alienated D. since she was born because she was an unwanted child. Vietnam had a two-child policy and she, being the third child they didn’t want, was estranged from not only her parents who are officials but other family members as well. Initially, when the sister who’s abroad went on Facebook to denounce D., one of this sister’s friends made a comment with surprise that they didn’t know she had a younger sister. D.’s parents have sent back to her hometown in Ninh Bình, 90 kilometers away from her friends in Hanoi, rumors had it that they were even trying to fabricate documents saying that she has a type of mental illness to denounce all her sayings, which was extremely easy because they have a relative who is the Director of a psychiatry hospital in Hanoi.

The majority of people who read about the story abhorred the grave violations of children rights and sided with her, many famous pages with considerable influence also made posts about the terrible abuse, condemned the unacceptable action, and called the appropriate authorities to carry out an investigation as well. Nevertheless, many of those pages’ administrators have reported that some people who had self-claimed themselves as the abuser family’s relative had sent them threatening and offensive messages on Facebook about the shutdown of their pages if they hadn’t stopped speaking up for the poor victim. Furthermore, there were some rumors saying that the abuser would use his money and relationship to cover up all the disadvantageous news and suppress the public opinion, and all the pages which condemned the abuser would be locked at 8 pm on May 27, 2018. Coincidentally, they all were banned unexpectedly without any convincing reasons in the evening of that day and the following day. In addition, a lot of Facebook users have also reported that their accounts have been attacked and banned for no good reasons, also on the same day. It was thought that the abuser had used his money to buy a large number of fake accounts to report the content of those pages or accounts as inappropriate, although there is nothing inappropriate to hold the abuser in contempt. But what should be rebuked here is that the employees in charge of reviewing and validating those reports who are working for Facebook in Vietnam, as well as their boss, Ms. Le Diep Kieu Trang, are totally irresponsible for not examining what have been reported thoroughly and allowing the power of money to cover up the truth and suppress the freedom of speech, one of the most essential human rights and is central to individuals’ dignity as humans. Not only in this case did they deny the essential human rights, but they also succeeded in deleting the news as well as banning the accounts that took part in other online activism asserting rights for the oppressed. For example, the case of the Thu Thiem tunnel which obviously is a blatant robbery from the poor people and an officer in VTV, the national television broadcaster of Vietnam, conducting child sexual abuse towards many under-16-year-old girls.  More seriously, they are happening in Vietnam, the country which has been called out by many nations and international human rights organizations for its egregious suppression of free speech.

Because of the aforementioned reasons, I call for the investigation of Facebook in Vietnam’s shady and suspicious activities in order to suppress freedom of expression. In addition, I call to remove all the bans on all the pages which have been shut down just because of daring to speak up the truth and defending the weak. Freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers, and I genuinely believe that we share the same values and hold the same visions to protect this most basic human right from any kinds of violations. I hold a strong conviction that one day the justice will win and all those who were involved in wrongdoings will be punished properly by the hands of laws.

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