Mark Zuckerberg spends Christmas in Vietnam even though Facebook is blocked there

By Daniel S Levine,
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks to reporters at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts November 7, 2011. Zuckerberg is visiting MIT and Harvard to recruit students about to graduate to work at Facebook. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EDUCATION)

Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend were spotted in Vietnam over the holidays, proving that he has an easier time in a country that his own social networking site is blocked in the communist country.

Local official Trinh Dang Thanh told The Associated Press that Zuckerberg spent Christmas Eve at Ha Long Bay, a destination popular with tourists. Vietnam’s state-run media claims that he has been in their country since last week, arriving on Dec. 22. He was shown in a Christmas day photo riding a buffalo when visiting the Topas Ecolodge in Sapa, a town in northern Vietnam.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook representatives have promised Vietnam’s state-run media that Zuckerberg’s trip is strictly personal, but since the media is also widely showing photos of him, the company could probably use this as a chance to show that Facebook is not as dangerous as the government fears.

The lack of Facebook in the country has sparked criticism around the world because it not only limits free speech, but it also limits the country’s chances of growing businesses within its borders. Still, tech-savvy Vietnamese have been able to get around the country’s blocks of the site. VietnamNet reports that an estimated 4 million Vietnamese are on Facebook, in spite of the government’s firewalls.

The country is home to 90 million people and Internet access continues to grow. The Wall Street Journal reports that diplomats in Hanoi say the government is worried that if access to Facebook is given, uprisings like those in the Middle East may happen as people would be able to organize protests.

Zuckerberg has yet to make a comment on his visit.

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