Facebook had to face the brunt of public protests going on in Vietnam over the weekend against an environmental disaster that resulted from toxic discharges from a steel complex built by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics. This forced the government to impose a ban on social media.
Instagram blocked too
Mass fish deaths have taken place at aquatic farms and in waters off the country’s central provinces, and dissidents are blaming the wastewater being released from the steel plant. Citizens are using Facebook to organize rallies for protest, and this likely is the cause of the shutdown, says TechCrunch.
Reports claim that Facebook-owned Instagram has been affected too. The protesters are using social media not just for organizing rallies but also to share photos of people at rallies carrying handwritten signs that read, “I choose fish.”
Citizens are angry not just with the steel plant but also with their government’s inaction. Formosa has denied wrongdoing in the matter, and the Deputy Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources said that either a toxic algae bloom or industrial waste is to be blamed for the fish deaths. He also said that Formosa should not be blamed.
About 300 people protesting in Ho Chi Minh City’s Paris Square were arrested, and while the police arrested them, they suffered many injuries.
“We are concerned about the increasing levels of violence perpetrated against Vietnamese protesters expressing their anger over the mysterious mass deaths of fish along the country’s central coast,” said the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights in a press release.
Reuters reported that the protesters were about to conduct a rally for a third time on Sunday, but security in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City prevented major rallies taking place. The fish deaths began in April, and a government investigation into the matter is still underway.
Facebook ban is good for proxy services
In past years, the Vietnam government has blocked social media off and on, but more recently, it appears that leaders are embracing Facebook. In October, Bloomberg reported that Vietnam’s Communist government was making an effort to reach the 30 million citizens who used the service, and for this, it even set up its own page on the network dubbed “Government Information.”
Hola is an Israeli proxy service that offers software commonly used to route around Internet censorship like this. The service is capitalizing on this situation. In a press release on Sunday, it said both Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram were blocked in Vietnam. Facebook’s blockade led to several downloads of this app, said Hola.