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Web satire fosters change in communist Vietnam

Published on Apr 8, 2014 11:50 AM

HO CHI MINH CITY (AFP) - A critical blog post could land you in jail in communist Vietnam, but a satirical image of Cinderella which mocks the ruling elite? Likely to slip past the censors.

The country's roughly 33 million Internet users, armed only with laptops and a sense of humour, are driving broader social change in the authoritarian nation than scores of imprisoned firebrand bloggers, experts say.

From their calls for the health minister to resign - a cause so popular that a state-run newspaper briefly took up the campaign - to amusing attacks on ham-fisted censorship, Vietnam's ever-growing ranks of Internet users are finding their voice.

"The kids creating and sharing these images don't think of it as activism, for the most part. They're not necessarily campaigning for anything. They're just making jokes," said Patrick Sharbaugh, a digital culture researcher who has worked in Vietnam.

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