FaceBook fuels Vietnamese protests against China

Jun 07, 2011 12:00 AM

by Peter Ferenczi

A protest in Hanoi against China's actions in a disputed part of the South China Sea was reportedly organized through FaceBook and other social networks, marking another example of dissent fuelled by social media.
Protesters, mostly Vietnamese college students, demonstrated against recent Chinese activities around the disputed Spratly Islands, including the threatening of fishermen and the cutting of survey cables laid by PetroVietnam, the state-owned oil and gas company.

As social media becomes more ubiquitous across the world, it will likely continue to play a role in organizing dissent, especially in countries where state control makes other forms of organization difficult.
However, oppressive governments are also likely to take steps to limit public access to this potentially destabilizing influence. Iran reportedly plans to largely replace Internet access in the country with a state-run closed network that will be in place within two years.

Demonstrations are reportedly extremely rare in Vietnam, and although the country has around 1.4 mm FaceBook users, access to the social network is often blocked in the country. However, savvy users appear to find workarounds.
The event is a much smaller echo of the widespread demonstrations that have rocked the Arab world over the last six months, beginning in Tunisia and spreading to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other countries. The use of social media, cell phones and YouTube to organize and spread news is a common element running through what has come to be known as the Arab Spring.

In response, some regimes have tried to block specific Web sites or shut down Internet and cellular communications in general.
Egypt went almost completely off-line before the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, for example, and cellular networks were selectively disrupted to make organizing protests more difficult.

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