Hanoi clamps down on Internet cafes

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The Independent Tech

Authorities in the Vietnamese capital are clamping down on Internet cafes in what they say is a bid to address online gaming addiction and inappropriate content.

Internet shops within 200 metres (220 yards) of schools must shut down this month, the official Hanoi city website said late Friday.

In addition, "technical measures" should be implemented to suspend all online service to Internet shops between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am, it said.

The city has hundreds of Internet cafes near schools, Pham Quoc Ban, head of Hanoi's information department, said on a separate government website.

"These shops have resulted in the quitting of classes by students who have become so addicted to online games, causing unexpected consequences," he said.

Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said soaring rates of Internet use brought "challenges" such as violent content and pornography, particularly at public Internet businesses.

In an earlier interview published in Vietnamese media, Ban said "specialised software" will help authorities enforce the new policy towards Internet outlets.

"This software will oversee the activities of users and the owners of Internet shops to know whether or not they are obeying the law," he was quoted as saying.

Cafes can be fined for violations, he added.

In June, Internet giant Google said it was troubled by Vietnam's new regulations that, it said, may allow authorities to block access to websites and track the activities of Internet users.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said authorities are trying to guarantee "safety and healthy usage" at public Internet points in Hanoi.

She said concerns over free expression are groundless.

Vietnam's Internet growth is among the world's fastest, and users number almost 24 million, or about 28 percent of the population, Nga added.

Observers say communist Vietnam has adopted a more aggressive stance towards politically sensitive Internet sites visited by a small minority of the population.

At the same time, public concern in Vietnam has grown about the social impact of the Internet, including the addiction of young people to online games.

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