The rapid expansion of social media in the last decade has unsettled the Vietnamese media landscape by enabling new possibilities of counter-political struggles, which led to party-state’s adoption of the conservative Cybersecurity Law in 2018. This event happened in a context in which Vietnamese media had long been destabilized by new market functions and had integrated deeply into the global environment of information and popular culture. On the one hand, the Cybersecurity Law demonstrates the determination of the party-state in governing the digital world by maintaining its traditional practices of surveillance and punishment. On the other hand, the persistence of fear-based censorship indicates that the party-state largely fails to recognize the sheer impossibility of monitoring online data by direct manipulation. Quite different from its Chinese counterpart, the Vietnamese party-state thus performs no significant effort in governmentalizing its old censoring mechanism, while continuing to project itself as an enemy of media freedom.