Vietnam state trolls attack on April 30th

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May 22, 2023

Every year, around April 30th (the date of the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War), Viet Tan’s social media accounts are targeted by cyberattacks from Vietnamese state trolls. This year, the trolls launched their offensive as early as April 28th, and it lasted until May 5th.

In previous years, the trolls would leave insulting comments on Viet Tan’s Facebook posts. However, in 2023, they chose a different approach by inundating Viet Tan’s inbox with offensive messages and demeaning photos. The peak of the attacks occurred on April 29th and 30th when Viet Tan’s inbox was flooded with up to a hundred messages per minute. Over the entire period of the attack, Viet Tan’s page received nearly 30,000 harmful messages.

Messages received between mid April and early May 2023

 

The spam content typically began with seemingly harmless messages, seeking information about Viet Tan’s activities. After a few polite exchanges with the admins, the trolls transition to insults and other disparaging messages. This tactic seemed to be aimed at wasting the time and energy of Viet Tan’s admin team and perhaps deterring Viet Tan from engaging with real users in Vietnam. It is probable that the spam is being generated by sophisticated automated accounts.

Some messages received: 

Image: Toilet paper with the imprint of the Republic of Vietnam flag,
Caption: Brand named toilet paper for export (Model 1975 version 304)

 

Image: An individual in military gear with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam flag as their face kicking a dog that has the image of the Republic of Vietnam flag.
Comment: “F*ck you”; “I’m a hacker from Vietnam, vip pro like the patriotic UNCLE HO”.

 

Comment: “Hey friend, you‘ve blocked 20 of my accounts, what kind of freedom of speech is this?”

 

The coordinated attack around April 30th represents another instance of a harmful network to silence free speech on the Facebook platform in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese authorities have previously announced the creation of Force 47, a cyber army of at least 10,000 individuals meant to launch online attacks against opposition voices. Force 47 is free to create tens of thousands of fake accounts on Facebook to suppress freedom of expression. While the tech company is quick to remove content at the Hanoi government’s request, it seems to tolerate the proliferation of fake accounts on its platform — despite the calls for Facebook to “unfriend” harmful social networks in Vietnam.

For more information on the Vietnamese state trolls and Force 47, please refer to our report StopVNtrolls.

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