Oct 28, 2020 / 10:25

Vietnam hardens crackdown on toxic media content, with Facebook, Google concessions

The Hanoitimes - Vietnam has long requested foreign social media platforms to restrict content that it considers potentially toxic and harmful to its interests.

Vietnam has advanced the fight against toxic content on the cyber space, with the quantity of violating content removed from Facebook and Google so far this year hitting a record high.

 Facebook users in Vietnam in January 2020. Source: NapoleonCat

As of October 2020, Facebook removed 2,036 articles, up 500% from that in 2019, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) said in a recent report sent to the National Assembly.

Facebook has removed 286 accounts that falsify profiles of the country’s leaders and disseminate fake news that incites subversion of state power, causes hostile, and defames the leaders, according to the report.

To give a hand to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook has removed 100% of fake news related to the global health crisis, including 11 accounts forging the Ministry of Health and 141 entries distorting the situation in Vietnam.

The rate by Google has reached 90% so far this year. In the first three quarter of 2020, Google’s YouTube has blocked and removed 10,877 videos out of 24,617 violating items from 2017 to September 2020.

In another move, between July 2017 and September 2020, Google has blocked access to 24 out of 62 YouTube channels that contain 11,212 defiant videos.

Apple Inc., meanwhile, has required app distributors on digital distribution platform App Store to get license by Vietnam’s authorities for their products. As a result, as many as 28 unlicensed and violating games have been removed at the MIC's request.

The ministry attributed the results to its requesting Facebook and Google to follow Vietnam’s law in monitoring, minimizing, blocking and removing fake, harmful, defamatory, offensive or objectionable information.

In addition, disseminators of fake news in Vietnam have been strictly punished by the Vietnamese authorities.

 Most-used social media platforms in Vietnam. Source: We Are Social and Hootsuite

Long-lasting request

Vietnam has for long requested Facebook and Google monitor and remove content that the country’s authorities reckon “inappropriate,” “distorting” and “slanderous”.

Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung, who ran military-run Viettel Group, a giant Vietnamese multinational telecommunications company headquartered in Hanoi, has vowed to make foreign social networks abide by Vietnamese law while facilitating their operations in the country.

Mr. Hung said in an interpellation at a session of the National Assembly in November 2019 that Vietnam welcomed foreign social network developers as long as they conform with Vietnam’s law. 
It means that foreign social networks need to prevent violating content on Vietnam’s request for “the country’s security”.

Meanwhile, the minister has made efforts to promote locally-developed social networks that can compete with foreign peers.

 Social Media Stats Vietnam September 2019-September 2020. Source: Statcounter

In Vietnam, entries on social network or pieces of news that are believed to be fake, harmful, defamatory, offensive or objectionable are subject to restrictions.

Early last year, Vietnam accused Facebook of violating a new cybersecurity law by allowing users to post anti-government comments on the platform.

The cybersecurity law that came into force early 2019 requires foreign companies such as Facebook and Google to set up representative offices and store data in Vietnam.

In the country of 97 million people, over 60 million use Facebook as the main platform for both e-commerce and expressions of their own views.

The number of users makes Facebook the unchallenged leader in Vietnam's social media. 

Unlike in Western countries, where Facebook’s popularity is decreasing among youth, Vietnamese teens remain loyal to the network.

More than 90% of Vietnamese social media users connect at least once a day to Facebook.