HANOI, Vietnam--Vietnam's access to Facebook has been intermittent at best for about a month. However, after two weeks here in Hanoi, I haven't been able to get an official answer as to whether the popular social-networking Web site is being blocked here.
Internet service providers in Vietnam blame the spotty access on "technical issues," without offering an estimate for when the problems will be resolved. A representative from Viettel, a DSL and cell phone service provider, told me "there might be something wrong with Facebook."
None of the government personnel I was able to talk to during a recent trip back to my homeland would give me an answer, either. Some seemed to be unaware of the outage. However, during a media briefing on December 3, Nguyen Phuong Nga, a representative of Vietnam's Foreign Ministry, affirmed that agencies have been evaluating the contents of certain social Web sites because "many people in Vietnam have been upset that a number of social Web sites have been misused," basically posting information of an undisclosed nature that is deemed inappropriate.
I'm unaware of any misuse, but the upset seems much louder from the other side. With more than a million users and counting, the limited access to Facebook has created a lot of anguish. Lan Nguyen, a 23-year-old English student in Hanoi said, "I use Facebook daily. Now, it feels like something just got stolen from me." She uses FPT Telecom, one of the biggest DSL providers in Vietnam.
Ha Do of Ho Chi Minh city, another mid-20s, self-proclaimed Facebook addict who has some 1,800 friends, put it simply: "This sucks big time!" She revealed, however, that she still could access the site from some cafes, though definitely not from home. Upset and disappointment are common feelings among those I talked to about the matter.
This also affects a lot of small businesses in Vietnam, especially bars, restaurants, and tourism agencies that use Facebook to promote themselves to the outside world.
A curious silence The week before I arrived in Vietnam, I was wondering why most of my Facebook friends in the country completely ignored my poking and never updated their pages. I'm afraid things won't get any better. … Read more