Lao government will not shut down social media

Facebook Laos
The government wants to encourage the constructive use of social media and has no policy to shut it down, senior government offices have said.

However the relevant authorities are also looking at ways to restrict its inappropriate use by introducing legal documents to regulate the use of social media including Facebook – the most popular social networking site in Laos.

Acting Director General of the Lao National Internet Centre under the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications Mr Keovisouk Solaphom confirmed that the Party and government do not have a policy to shut down social media.

“The Party [Lao People’s Revolutionary Party]’s resolution resolved to strive for modernising and industrialising [Laos]. Social media is part of it,” he said in a lecture on social media organised by Lao Press in Foreign Languages yesterday.

The confirmation was made as relevant government authorities are drafting legal documents to regulate the use of social media – a move that stirred up public discussion on to what degree the social media will be regulated or restricted.

The director said the government recognised the constructive use of social media and its many positive aspects and stressed that such use has been encouraged.

He explained that social media plays an important role in spreading useful and important information to keep members of the public updated with what is happening in society and across the globe.

Many people have also been using it for trading and advertising purposes. All these uses have contributed to socio-economic development, the director said.

However he noted that people have also been using social media, notably Facebook, in inappropriate ways such as spreading inaccurate and false information that misleads public opinion.

In this regard, the most recent case in Laos was the false rumour circulated and shared on Facebook which suggested that foreign traffickers in human organs were active in Attapeu province.

This rumour caused panic among local residents and required local authorities to issue a public clarification.

Worse, some bad elements have been using social media to spread false rumors aiming to tarnish the Party and government’s policies.

To regulate and give guidance towards the constructive use of social media many relevant laws have been promulgated, Mr Keovisouk said.

In addition, the Cybercrime Law, Information Technology Law, and Prime Ministerial Decree on the management of information through the internet are being drafted and expected to be complete this year.

Director General of the Media Department under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism Mr Pinpratthana Phanthamaly stressed the need to educate and encourage people to use social media in a constructive manner.

He echoed Mr Keovisouk’s emphasis on the important role social media is playing including in regards to disseminating Party and government policies and noted that social media is the proper channel to communicate with young teens – the largest group using social media.

Mr Pinpratthana, who is also a member of the National Committee in charge of internet affairs, reiterated that the government has no intention to shutdown social media but to encourage its appropriate use.

There are up to 520,000 Lao Facebook users, 82 percent of whom are under 30 years old. Some 300,000 users are males, according to Mr Keovisouk.



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Vientiane Times,
06 June, 2014