Laos to Introduce Social Media Controls

2013-10-24
Email story
Comment on this story
Share story
Print story
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Email
Women use a laptop to surf the Internet at a classroom in Vientiane in an undated photo.
Women use a laptop to surf the Internet at a classroom in Vientiane in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of a citizen journalist

Laos’s rapidly growing contingent of Facebook users could soon face penalties for false or “inappropriate” posts as authorities prepare to introduce unprecedented social media regulations possibly modeled on Chinese and Vietnamese censorship laws, officials announced this week.

News of the rules, the first to control what people say online in the country, have prompted an outcry from Facebook users concerned that it may mark a new chapter in the government’s grip on information.

The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications is currently drawing up the regulations, which are expected to take effect by the end of the year, the ministry’s E-Government Centre Director General Phonpasit Phissamay told the state-run Vientiane Times newspaper on Tuesday.

The rules are aimed at ensuring social networking sites are used in a “constructive manner,” according to the report.

Users may be penalized for posting inaccurate or “inappropriate” information, Phonpasit said.

China, Vietnam models

He said that in drafting the news laws, the ministry will study regulatory models “particularly from China and Vietnam,” both of which have been labeled Asia’s worst online oppressors by rights groups.

To enforce the rules, it will seek the cooperation of Internet service providers, he said.

Lao authorities have long enforced strict controls on broadcast and print media in the country, where only about 8 percent of the population has access to the Internet.

But social media in Laos has blossomed in recent years.

The number of Facebook users, for example, has jumped from 60,000 in 2011 to 400,000 users this year, incorporating nearly 70 percent of Internet users in the landlocked nation, according to the Vientiane Times. About 500,000 to 600,000 people use the Internet in Laos.

Clampdown expected

Amid the rapidly growing social media, Facebook users have been anticipating an online clampdown by the Lao Communist Party leadership, which has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1975.

“I expected this would happen someday, even though government says we have a democracy,” one Facebook user posted on the “Laos News Update” Facebook page. “We won’t be able to say anything [online] now.”

“It’s because the government can’t stand criticism from people,” another user said.

Others were more cautious in their criticism, however, saying the rules could be helpful if they prevented the spread of “harmful” information.

“We have to wait and see what kind of restrictions these are going to be because we don’t know the details yet,” one man told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Air crash

The announcement of the social media regulations came on the heels of a Lao airlines plane crash last week that prompted a flurry of posts among Lao social media users after many of them heard about the incident from Thai media.

In the nation's worst known air disaster, the plane plunged into the Mekong River killing all 49 people on board.

A rash of online rumors about the incident had prompted a government spokesman to call a press conference urging the public not to post inaccurate information about it, the Vientiane Times reported.

Social media users had posted photos of the wrong plane, and one man had had to announce on Facebook that he was not dead after users speculated he had been on the flight, it said.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (5)
  • Print
  • Share
  • Email

terry

The Laos goverment is using their excuses in order to stripped off their citizens freedom to share and expression. Everyone knows they already have full control of tv, newspapers and other medias. Now the internet. What type of false information can a normal citizen spread on the internet if unless the goverment is fuckup and corruption. Oppression and silence your own people won't improve anything just make it worst.Why follow China and Vietnam because laos cannot think for itself.

Feb 17, 2014 08:29 PM

Huk Lao people

from LaoTech

Lao PDR government has been using an "unspeakable atrocity act" against their own people. They will do all possible solutions they currently have in controlling of the social media from outside world, so that Lao citizens will have very limited access to the internet or modern technology. However, the majority of Lao Issara government employees are very technology-illiterate and only minimal amount know to how use and operate in daily basis. They will implement their communication infrastructures in the same model as Vietnam, N. Korea and China do their people. Their goals are to seal their internal information from leaking and spreading on online social media. Their success is very subtle and beyond just a few years. Without help from foreigners experts, their goals are very slim or yet impossible.

Feb 17, 2014 11:26 AM

Ham Yai Der

from Sky over Laos

Sabaidee to all beloved Lao people who currently are working for Lao PDR government. It is time for you to stop working for the Choummarly Sayasone's regime. They are deceiving and using you in every day but they never care of your work and our people. We must unite and work together to topple and down this Lao-Vientcong regime. You've been working for free for nearly 4 months but still working for them; you don't have to. Mr. Choummarly Sayasone and his followers are robbing Lao people and our country $$$. There are numerous Vientcongs and Chinese are invading our home, north to south and east to west. Very soon Pateth Lao will be wiped out from the world map and losing to these devils foreigners.

Dec 28, 2013 11:06 AM

Senedee

Dictators and terrorists will do everything to terrorize the public in their self-centered manners. Let them do so, so the world knows how oppressive they are and so the public will finally get upset enough to remove them from power.

Oct 25, 2013 07:42 AM

mobile

from vientiane

Now your mobile facebook is worthless in Laos because your have no freedom to tell the true if you tell the true against communist lao they will nail you.

Oct 25, 2013 12:50 AM

View all comments.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

More Listening Options

View Full Site