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Environmental disaster spurs a Facebook ban in Vietnam

Facebook has reportedly been blocked in Vietnam over the weekend as part of an ongoing crackdown from the government on social media. It follows an environmental disaster caused by toxic discharges from a complex built by Formosa Plastics, a Taiwanese company.

Protestors argue that wastewater from the factory caused a mass death of fish at nearby aquatic farms, as well as in water near the central provinces of the country. So what does this have to do with Facebook? Citizens have been using the social media network to organize rallies. It seems as though Instagram has also been affected by the crackdown.

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Citizens in Vietnam are angry at both the factory and the government for not acting on the issue. The factory in question, Formosa, has denied doing anything wrong, and the government has even gone as far as to claim that the fish deaths were the result of a toxic algae boom.

The UN has expressed concern over the issue, with the High Commissioner on Human Rights saying that “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.”

Social media has long been a target for governments looking to suppress organized protests. Back in 2011, Egypt blocked access to social media as Egyptians protested the long-standing dictatorship in the country. Before that, the Iranian government blocked Facebook in an attempt to prevent the opposing party’s supporters from organizing.

It’s unclear if the ban, which went into effect over the weekend, is ongoing, especially considering the fact that the ban appears to have mainly been implemented to crack down on protests organized for Sunday. Websites that track outages, like DownDetector, indicate that the ban may have been lifted.