Government leaders in Vietnam are launching their own Communist-friendly social networking site that is similar to Facebook.
The site, go.vn, is state-owned and is a change in strategy for Vietnam's government. Previously Hanoi's Politburo members have typically shut down parts of the Internet that did not comply with or support the government's one-party dictatorship. Authorities have tried to block access to Facebook and have jailed dissident bloggers.
The go.vn site requires users to submit their full names and government-issued identity numbers before they can access the site, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.
The article quotes Vietnam's Minister for Information and Communication, Le Doan Hop, as predicting the site will sign up more than 40 million people--about half the country's 85 million people by 2015.
Hop went on to say the site includes English tests and several state-approved videogames. The offerings include a violent multiplayer contest featuring a band of militants on a mission to stop the spread of global capitalism.
The Vietnamese government heavily censors television and newspapers. According to the Wall Street Journal article, the government in Vietnam is nervous about the speed at which Internet use is growing because, so far, it is more difficult for the government to control content on the web. Vietnam recorded 26 million Internet users in August. That number is up 18% from the same month last year and is one of the fastest growth rates in the developing world, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Facebook has more than a million users in Vietnam and the number has been growing steadily since Facebook added a Vietnamese language version of the site, according to an article in the UK news site The Independent.
Vietnam is, apparently, trying to increase control over blogging and social networks like its neighbor to the north--China. The People's Republic of China blocks websites at an Internet Service Provider (ISP) level. Vietnam blocks websites at the Domaine Name System (DNS).
An Internet expert quoted in the Global Post said the policy in Vietnam does not provide a strong block. He said you can just change the DNS. He explained that that the Vietnamese government tells service providers to redirect their servers away from sites as opposed to actually blocking the access as the Chinese government does. That means it is easier to circumnavigate Vietnam's firewall than it is in China. According to the Global Post an estimated 30,000 censors search for illicit content on the Internet in China.
Government officials in Vietnam have described their new social networking site as the country's biggest online investment to date. Officials will not say how much has been spent or how many people have logged in to the new go.vn network.