Facebook Removes Profile Frame Targeting Religious Minority

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019, shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. PHOTO: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

Facebook said on Wednesday it has removed a profile frame targeting Pakistan’s long-persecuted Ahmadi community as the media giant continues to grapple with the proliferation of hate speech on the social network.

Profile frames are filters Facebook users can add to their pictures that often promote a cause, celebrate a holiday, or commemorate an event or tragedy.

The frame withdrawn by Facebook called for the death of the Ahmadis in Urdu and was widely shared in Pakistan.

“We have removed the Profile Frames in question for violating our rules, and have ensured that they’re unavailable for future use,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP via email.

“We do not tolerate any content — including anything shared within Profile Frames — that incites violence, and we remove this content whenever we become aware of it.”

The frame was extensively used by Pakistani Facebook users after US President Donald Trump met with several leading members of persecuted religious groups in the White House earlier this month, including a representative from Pakistan’s Ahmadi community.

Ahmadis were legally declared non-Muslims in Pakistan decades ago for their belief in a prophet after Mohammed and have long been persecuted and widely hated in the deeply conservative country.

Hardline Islamic scholars denounce the Ahmadis as heretics and the group has been the target of violence and threats by leading politicians in Pakistan over the years.

Facebook disabled 2.19 billion accounts in the first quarter of this year, nearly double the number of accounts nixed in the prior three-month period.

The social network took down four million posts considered hate speech in the first quarter of this year and continues to invest in technology to better detect such material in various languages and regions.

However, Facebook has been battered by criticism that it was more focused on growth than protecting users or thwarting deception, bullying, and harassment.

AFP

US Fines Facebook $5bn, Toughens Privacy Oversight

 

US regulators on Wednesday slapped a record $5 billion fine on Facebook for privacy violations in a wide-ranging settlement that calls for revamping privacy controls and oversight at the social network.

The Federal Trade Commission said the penalty was the largest ever imposed on any company for violating consumers’ privacy and one of the largest penalties ever assessed by the US government for any violation.

However, two Democratic members of the five-member FTC dissented, arguing the agreement failed to go far enough to rein in Facebook business practices that endanger consumers.

The agreement requires Facebook to create a privacy committee within its board of directors to be appointed by an independent nominating committee.

READ ALSO: Four Chinese Indicted In US For Aiding North Korea’s Weapons Programme

This would end “unfettered control” of decisions on privacy by Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, the FTC statement said.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons said the penalty was appropriate to address concerns over Facebook’s misuse of personal information.

“The magnitude of the $5 billion penalty and sweeping conduct relief are unprecedented in the history of the FTC,” Simons said in a statement.

“The relief is designed not only to punish future violations but, more importantly, to change Facebook’s entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations.”

Under the agreement, Facebook’s CEO and staff must submit to the FTC quarterly certifications that the company is in compliance with the privacy program as well as an annual certification.

Facebook also will be required to conduct a privacy review of every new or modified product, service, or practice before it is implemented, including for its WhatsApp and Instagram services.

 Not far enough? 

FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra rejected the settlement, saying it “does little to change the business model or practices that led to the recidivism.”

In a separate statement, dissenting FTC commissioner Rebecca Slaughter said the deal appears to absolve Facebook and key executives from liability. She said the government should instead take Facebook to court.

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center called the FTC action “too little, too late.”

“American consumers cannot wait another decade for the commission to act against a company that violates their privacy rights,” Rotenberg said. “Congress should move quickly to establish a data protection agency.”

Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge also expressed concern that the settlement would do little to change Facebook’s business practices.

“Under this settlement, Facebook does not have to meaningfully change how it collects and uses your data,” Slaiman said.

Facebook’s top lawyer Colin Stretch said the agreement “will require a fundamental shift in the way we approach our work and it will place additional responsibility on people building our products at every level of the company.”

The FTC last year reopened its investigation of Facebook, which reached a 2011 settlement on handling private data, after a series of revelations on the mishandling of personal data.

The move came after Facebook acknowledged data on tens of millions of users had been hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy working on the 2016 Donald Trump campaign.

 Settling Cambridge Analytica 

In a separate agreement with stock market regulators, Facebook agreed to pay a $100 million penalty for making “misleading disclosures regarding the risk of misuse of Facebook user data” in the investigation on Cambridge Analytica.

“We allege that Facebook exacerbated its disclosure failures when it misled reporters who asked the company about its investigation into Cambridge Analytica,” said Erin Schneider, head of the regional enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The FTC announced a separate settlement on the Cambridge Analytica case that calls for its app developer Aleksandr Kogan and former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix to delete or destroy any personal information they collected.

Cambridge Analytica itself has filed for bankruptcy and has not settled the FTC’s investigation.

The news comes hours before Facebook was set to release its quarterly financial results.

Zuckerberg has said the social network, which has more than two billion users worldwide, will be shifting away from its role as a “digital town square” to focus on private connections and small groups.

Facebook is also seeking to launch its own digital currency called Libra, which has raised concerns among regulators.

AFP

$5bn US Fine Set For Facebook On Privacy Probe – Report

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
Photo: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

US regulators have approved a $5 billion penalty to be levied on Facebook to settle a probe into the social network’s privacy and data protection lapses, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The newspaper said the Federal Trade Commission approved the settlement in a 3-2 vote, with the two Democratic members of the consumer protection agency dissenting.

According to the report, the deal, which would be the largest penalty imposed over privacy violations, still needs approval from the Justice Department before it is finalized.

Facebook did not immediately respond to an AFP query on the agreement.

The settlement would be in line with Facebook’s estimate earlier this year when it said it expected to pay $3 billion to $5 billion for legal settlements on “user data practices.”

The FTC announced last year it reopened its investigation into a 2011 privacy settlement with Facebook after revelations that personal data on tens of millions of users was hijacked by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, working on the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.

Facebook has also faced questions about whether it improperly shared user data with business partners in violation of the earlier settlement.

The leading social network with more than two billion users worldwide has also been facing inquiries on privacy from authorities in US states and regulators around the world.

Some Facebook critics have argued the company should face tougher sanctions including monitoring of its data practices, or that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg should be personally liable for penalties.

Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge said it was not immediately clear if the settlement would require changes to Facebook’s business practices, but suggested that the partisan split on the vote was a bad omen.

“I’m hopeful that additional conditions placed on Facebook’s business practices will be forthcoming,” Slaiman said in a statement.

“Those conditions should protect not just user privacy, but also the users’

WhatsApp, Instagram Affected As Outage Hits Facebook Services Worldwide

 

Facebook acknowledged Wednesday an outage affecting users in various parts of the world and said it was working on a fix.

Online monitoring service DownDetector reported earlier the outage began around 1200 GMT and affected Facebook as well as its Instagram and WhatsApp services.

#Facebookdown and #instagramdown were trending on Twitter as users around the world reported these apps were not functioning.

Facebook said in a tweet: “We’re aware that some people are having trouble uploading or sending images, videos and other files on our apps. We’re sorry for the trouble and are working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

According to DownDetector, thousands of users around the world were reporting outages with Europe and North America most impacted.

Earlier this year, an outage lasting as long as 24 hours that hit Facebook services was blamed on a “server configuration change.”

The March 13 outage was believed to be the worst ever for the internet giant, which reaches an estimated 2.7 billion people with its core social network, Instagram and messaging applications.

The company did not immediately respond to an AFP query on Wednesday’s outage.

Suspected Ritualist Arrested After Murder Of Facebook Friend

 

A suspected ritualist has been arrested following the murder of a 25-year-old woman.

He was arrested by the Oyo State Police Command on Thursday.

The suspect, Dotun Ogunlade who claimed to be a spiritual healer and prophet told journalists that he had been chatting with the deceased since January when they became friends on Facebook.

Subsequently, the victim was lured to Igbo Ora from Ilorin where she was allegedly injected with an overdose of sleeping drugs after which she was strangulated.

Read Also: EFCC Arrests 27 Suspected Yahoo-Boys In Osogbo, Recovers Eight Exotic Cars

Thereafter, her head and arms were severed and the remained of the corpse was buried in a shallow grave as she was meant to be used for money rituals.

Addressing journalists at the Oyo State Police Command, the Commissioner, Shina Olukolu, warned the public of the dangers of making friends with strangers, especially on social media.

He also urged the public to be wary of people who claim to be clairvoyant or healers, saying they could be killers in disguise.

According to him, investigation is still ongoing on the matter and all those found guilty would be made to face the full wrath of the law.

Facebook Curbs Research Tool Amid Privacy Firestorm

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo was taken on February 18, 2019, shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris.
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook has curbed access to a controversial feature allowing searches of the vast content within the social network — a tool which raised privacy concerns but was also used for research and investigative journalism.

The leading social network acknowledged this week it had “paused” some elements of its “graph search,” a feature introduced in 2013 which has sparked criticism for allowing posts and other content to be unearthed with a simple query.

But graph search turned out to be an important tool for researchers, rights activists and journalists. It has been used to track activity of suspected war criminals and human traffickers and to monitor extremists.

“We paused some aspects of graph search late last week,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We’re in conversations with a few researchers to learn more about how they used this tool.”

READ ALSO: Zuckerberg Did Not Ignore Personal Data Issues, Says Facebook Mgt

Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University professor who follows social media, said the move is the latest to tighten data access to Facebook since the scandal over Cambridge Analytica, the consultancy which hijacked personal data of tens of millions of Facebook users.

The new curbs make it harder for researchers to find Facebook posts about topics ranging from war crimes to anorexia to the anti-vaccine movement, Grygiel said.

Grygiel said while the move may be seen as promoting privacy, it also limits the ability of researchers to investigate Facebook itself and its efforts to weed out hate speech and extremist content.

“Researchers like myself were using social graph to show how bad Facebook’s content moderation was,” she told AFP. “This may be a public relations move because Facebook is tired of having everyone understand how bad their privacy is.”

After being introduced in 2013, graph search drew immediate fire from privacy activists as a “creepy” tool that could enable stalking or unwanted disclosures.

Facebook has made changes over the years to graph search and offered users privacy settings limiting what information is unearthed. The company did not respond to an AFP query to elaborate on the most recent changes or the reason for the new policy.

– Legitimate research or abuse? –
“This tool was used both for abusive purposes and for legitimate research,” said Adi Kamdar, a legal fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Kamdar said Facebook’s move may be troubling because of Facebook’s ongoing “obstruction of good-faith journalism and research on the platform.”

The Knight Institute this week sent a letter to Facebook signed by some 200 journalists and researchers asking the social network for improved access to study the platform.

“Digital research and journalism serve the public interest by advancing public understanding of the social media platforms,” the letter said.

“These platforms — and Facebook’s in particular — have a powerful but poorly understood influence on public discourse and, by extension, on societies around the world.”

The letter urged Facebook to create a “safe harbor” for certain researchers and journalists that “would permit us to do our work without impeding Facebook’s ability to protect the privacy of its users and the integrity of its platform.”

Kamdar said the letter was drafted before Facebook’s latest change and that the new curbs “may be seen as a setback” for research, for example, on how Facebook’s algorithms and recommendations work.

Investigative journalist Michael Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors right-wing extremist groups, expressed concern over whether the change could limit the ability to track hate speech and violent activity on Facebook.

“It’s important to remember that these users generally want as many people to see their content as possible,” Hayden said. “The greater concern would be if these changes enabled them to organize in secret on the platform. This would particularly concern me with people who plot violence and terrorism.”

Casey Fiesler, a University of Colorado professor and social computing researcher, said Facebook should not shut off access to its data for research but should be selective.

“Any tool that people use to gather data can be used for good or bad purposes,” Fiesler said.

“I would rather see ethical decisions be made about a particular use of data rather than to shut it down entirely.”

Facebook To Cut Off Huawei In Compliance With US Sanctions

 

Facebook said Friday it would stop allowing pre-installation of its social networking apps on Huawei devices to comply with US sanctions against the Chinese technology giant.

The social media giant said it took the step after US President Donald Trump’s order barring Huawei from US technology exports over concerns that it works with Chinese intelligence.

“We are reviewing the Commerce Department’s final rule and the more recently issued temporary general license and taking steps to ensure compliance,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

The California company said people with existing Huawei smartphones with Facebook apps will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Facebook.

The move by Facebook is the latest to isolate Huawei, which had become the world’s second largest smartphone vendor despite security concerns voiced in Washington.

Google last month said it would cut ties to Huawei, making it harder to obtain major apps from the US giant.

The Google decision would leave Huawei without the Play Store, the marketplace for most Android apps, and other elements of the mobile operating system.

Facebook – which is banned in China but has more than two billion users worldwide – said its decision would affect its core social network as well as applications such as Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, which each have at least one billion users.

Facebook Plans Cryptocurrency Launch Next Year

This file illustration picture taken on April 26, 2018, in Paris shows the logo of social network Facebook displayed on a screen and reflected on a tablet. PHOTO: Lionel BONAVENTURE/AFP

 

Facebook has been in contact with US and British financial regulators with a view to launching its own cryptocurrency next year, the BBC reported on Friday.

“GlobalCoin” would work with a new digital payments system in about a dozen countries, starting in the first quarter of 2020, the broadcaster said on its website.

Previous reports have said Facebook is taking a serious look at blockchain technology under its “Project Libra”, in part to tackle doubts about privacy among its many users following a series of scandals.

But the targeted date appears new. The BBC said Facebook had already spoken to Bank of England governor Mark Carney and to officials at the US Treasury and was expected to flesh out its plans this northern hemisphere summer.

Facebook’s currency would be “stable coin”, a digital unit pegged to the dollar in contrast to more anarchic means of virtual payment such as bitcoin, according to earlier reporting by Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal among others.

With more than two billion users across its platforms, which include WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook could have the clout to take a cryptocurrency mainstream and emulate the likes of WeChat in China, where the US site is banned.

WeChat allows its users to chat, shop and play games without leaving its platform, generating more revenue by offering a one-stop portal.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has said that adding e-commerce is the logical evolution of the company’s advertising-based business model.

But such a step is likely to invite more intense regulatory scrutiny at a time when Facebook is already under a cloud for abuses of privacy and the spread of fake news.

Facebook said it had disabled 2.19 billion fake accounts in the first quarter of this year, nearly double the number of the three months prior.

But Zuckerberg on Thursday rejected the idea of breaking up the social media giant, saying that would hamper the fight against deceit and harmful online content.

AFP

Breaking Up Facebook Isn’t The Answer, Says Zuckerberg

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg believes the argument that Facebook is in a dominant position “might be a little stretched”. Photo: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday rejected the idea of breaking up the social media giant as off-target, saying it could hamper the fight against deceit and harmful online content.

The Facebook co-founder’s defense of the leading social network came as it reported it recently disabled billions of bogus accounts set up by “bad actors” and that five percent of active accounts are likely fakes.

Facebook and its family of apps including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp face competition around the world from rivals such as Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and others in a “competitive and dynamic environment,” Zuckerberg said.

The company does not rule the digital advertising market, which is topped by Google, he noted.

“I think arguments that we are in some sort of dominant position there might be a little stretched,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call about its latest content policy enforcement report.

“The question is, what problems are you trying to solve?”

He argued that breaking up the company might mean fewer resources to curb harmful online content and election interference and improve privacy and the portability of personal data.

“Those are the most important social issues right now, and I don’t think breaking up the company is going to address those,” Zuckerberg said.

“As a matter of fact, I think it is going to make it harder.”

Facebook’s success has enabled it to invest heavily in artificial intelligence and workers to watch for rule-breaking content and activity at the social network, according to Zuckerberg.

“The degree to which the success of this company has allowed us to fund these efforts for safety is massive,” Zuckerberg said.

“We are able to do things that are not possible for other folks to do.”

Facebook announced separately it is creating an independent board to act as a final court of appeals or sorts for disputes about content taken down at the social network.

Decisions of the board will be binding, with Facebook promising to abide by outcomes.

Zuckerberg referred to the independent advisory board and said he cared deeply about people’s freedom of expression when asked about the White House setting up a website to collect input from people who feel they have been unfairly censored on social media.

Spammer onslaught

Facebook disabled 2.19 billion accounts in the first quarter of this year, nearly double the number of accounts nixed in the prior three-month period, according to vice president of integrity Guy Rosen.

“The amount of accounts we took action on increased due to automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time,” Rosen said.

Facebook disabled most of the accounts as automated imposters were trying to establish them or shortly after they were made, according to Rosen.

The bulk of the fake accounts were the work spammers using automated systems, and with an apparent end-goal of making money, Facebook executives said.

The leading social network, meanwhile, estimated that five percent of its 2.4 billion monthly active users were fake accounts yet to be uncovered.

The California-based company also said it has made progress in battling hate speech, automatically detecting 65 percent of the content removed instead of needing to wait for users to report it.

Facebook took down four million posts considered hate speech in the first quarter of this year and continues to invest in technology to better detect such material in various languages and regions, according to Rosen.

The social network also said that it has booted more than 200 white supremacist organisations.

Facebook reported progress in efforts to prevent the social network from being used for illegal sales of drugs or guns.

It “took action” in the quarter against 900,000 pieces of content related to drug sales, of which some 83 percent was detected by software.

AFP

Facebook Tightens Live-Streaming In Crackdown On Violence

 

Facebook announced on Wednesday it is tightening access to livestreaming to prevent the rampant sharing of graphic video as took place with the Christchurch massacre.

People who have broken certain rules, including those against “dangerous organizations and individuals,” will be restricted from using the Facebook Live streaming feature, said vice president of integrity Guy Rosen.

“Following the horrific recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand, we’ve been reviewing what more we can do to limit our services from being used to cause harm or spread hate,” he said in a statement.

READ ALSO: WhatsApp Hack: A Latest Breach Of Personal Data Security

A self-described white supremacist gunned down 51 people at two Christchurch mosques in March, and broadcast live footage of the violence on Facebook from a head-mounted camera.

A “one-strike” policy at Facebook Live will be applied to a broader range of offenses, with those who violate serious policies suspended from using the feature after a single offense.

Such violations would include sharing a link to a statement from a terrorist group with no context, according to Rosen.

“We plan on extending these restrictions to other areas over the coming weeks, beginning with preventing those same people from creating ads on Facebook,” Rosen said.

He added that technical innovation is needed to get ahead of the kind of “adversarial media manipulation” seen after the New Zealand mosque massacre, such as users modifying videos in order to slip past filters.

“One of the challenges we faced in the days after the attack was a proliferation of many different variants of the video of the attack,” Rosen said.

“People — not always intentionally — shared edited versions of the video which made it hard for our systems to detect.”

Facebook announced that it was putting $7.5 million into research partnerships with three US universities to improve image and video analysis technology.

“This work will be critical for our broader efforts against manipulated media, including deepfakes,” Rosen said, a reference to videos altered using artificial intelligence.

“We hope it will also help us to more effectively fight organized bad actors who try to outwit our systems as we saw happen after the Christchurch attack.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the move as “a good first step”.

“The March 15 terrorist highlighted just how easily livestreaming can be misused for hate. Facebook has made a tangible first step to stop that act being repeated on their platform,” she said.

Ardern was set to join other world leaders in launching the “Christchurch Call” to curb online extremism at an international meeting in Paris on Wednesday.

Top executives from Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Twitter were also expected to attend, though Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was to be represented by another executive from the social media giant.

AFP

Hackers Exploit WhatsApp Flaw To Install Spyware

whatsapp, video calling

 

A security flaw in WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, allowed sophisticated attackers to install spyware on phones, the company said on Tuesday, in the latest trouble for its parent Facebook.

The vulnerability — first reported by the Financial Times, and fixed in the latest WhatsApp update — allowed hackers to insert malicious software on phones by calling the target using the app, which is used by 1.5 billion people around the world.

The FT cited a spyware dealer as saying the tool was developed by a shadowy Israel-based firm called the NSO Group, which has been accused of helping governments from the Middle East to Mexico snoop on activists and journalists. Security researchers said the malicious code bore similarities to other tech developed by the firm, according to The New York Times.

The latest exploit — which impacts Android devices and Apple’s iPhones, among others — was discovered earlier this month and WhatsApp scrambled to fix it, rolling out an update in less than 10 days.

“WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” a spokesperson said in a statement to AFP.

The firm did not comment on the number of users affected or who targeted them, and said it had reported the matter to US authorities.

The breach is the latest in a series of issues troubling WhatsApp’s parent Facebook, which has faced intense criticism for allowing its users’ data to be harvested by research companies and over its slow response to Russia using the platform as a means to spread disinformation during the 2016 US election campaign.

Highly invasive software

The WhatsApp spyware is sophisticated and “would be available to only advanced and highly motivated actors”, the company said, adding that a “select number of users were targeted”.

“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company that works with a number of governments around the world” according to initial investigations, it added, but did not name the firm.

WhatsApp has briefed human rights organizations on the matter, but did not identify them.

The Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto, said in a tweet it believed an attacker tried to target a human rights lawyer as recently as Sunday using this flaw, but was blocked by WhatsApp.

The NSO Group came to prominence in 2016 when researchers accused it of helping spy on an activist in the United Arab Emirates. Its best-known product is Pegasus, a highly invasive tool that can reportedly switch on a target’s phone camera and microphone, and access data on it.

The firm said Tuesday that it only licenses its software to governments for “fighting crime and terror”.

The NSO Group “does not operate the system, and after a rigorous licensing and vetting process, intelligence and law enforcement determine how to use the technology to support their public safety missions”, it said in a statement to AFP.

“We investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system.”

AFP

Vietnam Jails Two Activists For ‘Spreading Propaganda’ On Facebook

A Vietnamese court has jailed two activists on charges of publishing damaging anti-state propaganda about the communist-run country, state media reported Saturday, the latest convictions under a hardline leadership intolerant of dissent.

The women, Vu Thi Dung and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong, were sentenced Friday to six and five years respectively for posting videos and articles on Facebook against proposed special economic zones and a beefed-up cybersecurity law, the People’s Police newspaper reported.

The court, in the country’s south, found them both guilty of “making, hoarding and spreading propaganda information, documents and materials against the socialist republic of Vietnam”.

Both market vendors, the two women are the latest to face harsh blowback for publicly opposing the cybersecurity law, which would require internet companies to hand over user data and remove content if requested by the government.

The proposed special economic zones are also deeply sensitive and sparked rare nationwide protests last year in which police stations and government offices were ransacked.

Independent media is banned in Vietnam, with online posts, comments and critics strictly monitored and bloggers, activists and rights lawyers routinely jailed.

The hardline leadership in charge since 2016 has been harsh on dissidents, with nearly 60 put behind bars last year according to an AFP tally.

A Vietnamese activist who also criticised both the special economic zones and the cybersecurity law was sentenced to two years in prison in March for “abusing democratic freedoms”.

Critics say the draconian cyber law will be used to target online dissent, but it has yet to be implemented.

The draft bill on economic zones also sparked an uproar as many in Vietnam believed it would grant incentives to Chinese companies.

No mention of China was suggested in the legislation but officials put off passing the bill following the protests, which hit the capital Hanoi and the commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City.

Dozens of demonstrators have been jailed since taking part.

AFP