WASHINGTON (AFP 1.04.2009) — Twelve US lawmakers have urged Internet giants Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to resist what they called communist Vietnam's "worsening" efforts to restrict online political speech.

12 US lawmakers have urged Internet firms to resist what they called communist Vietnam's "worsening" online restrictions

"We strongly urge you to advocate for the freedoms of speech and expression for the citizens of Vietnam by continuing to provide your technologies to the people of Vietnam in a manner that respects their rights and privacy," they wrote on Tuesday in a letter to top executives at each of the three firms.

The group comprised Democratic Representatives Loretta Sanchez, James Moran, Michael Honda, Madeleine Bordallo, Maurice Hinchey, Hank Johnson, Neil Abercrombie, and Niki Tsongas.

Republican Representatives Joseph "Anh" Cao -- the first Vietnamese American to serve in the House -- Daniel Lungren, Ed Royce, and Thaddeus McCotter also signed the letter, of which AFP obtained a copy.

"We write to express our concern regarding the worsening internet restrictions in Vietnam," they wrote to Google chief Eric Schmidt, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and Carol Bartz of Yahoo.

"We are especially concerned by reports that Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications may be approaching major internet service providers to request their help in policing the Internet," they wrote.

In late December 2008, Vietnam tightened curbs on bloggers to ban views seen as opposing the state or undermining national security, according to a new edict which asks online service providers to provide data on users.

The Internet has given Vietnamese people a forum to express themselves that cannot be found in the traditional media, which are closely controlled by the communist authorities.

It has produced a flourishing blogosphere, but the government said in December it wanted closer regulation.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders lists Vietnam as among the "enemies of the Internet" with censorship practices "almost as thorough as those of its Chinese big sister."

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