Facebook rebuts Vietnam claims over alleged illegal content

FILE - In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens in New York's Times Square. Facebook is defending itself against allegations that it allows illegal content in violation of Vietnam’s cybersecurity law. The social media giant said Wednesday that it had a clear process for reporting and handling content that violates laws. AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

HANOI, Vietnam — Facebook was defending itself Wednesday against allegations that it allows illegal content in violation of Vietnam's new cybersecurity law.

The social media giant said it has restricted illegal content and is in discussions with the government.

"We have a clear process for governments to report illegal content to us, and we review all those requests against our terms of service and local law," the company said in a statement. "We are transparent about the content restrictions we make in accordance with local law in our Transparency Report ," it said.

The comments were in response to Vietnamese state media reports that the Ministry of Information and Communication had complained Facebook was allowing users to upload slanderous content and anti-government comments, among other alleged violations of a cybersecurity law that took effect Jan. 1.

The law requires service providers such as Google and Facebook operating in Communist-ruled Vietnam to store user data locally, open local offices and remove offending content within 24 hours if requested by the authorities.

Facebook has found itself caught between such local requirements in countries like China and Vietnam that restrict political dissent and its identity as a U.S. company that says it strives to give "free expression maximum possible range."

The company's Transparency Report shows the number of items of restricted illegal content skyrocketed in the second half of last year over the previous six months. It said that included items related to illegal sales of wildlife and other products, cases of impersonation of a user to spread false information and alleged defamation of some products and people.

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