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Oct 06, 2023 / 23:17

TikTok's violations in Vietnam exposed

The social networking platform was found to have committed six categories of violations in relation to its operations in Vietnam.

The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) released the results of an extensive investigation into TikTok's operations in Vietnam, which found the platform in violation of local laws.

The logo of TikTok on a smartphone. Photo: AP/VNA

According to Le Quang Tu Do, director general of the Department of Broadcasting and Electronic Information, an investigation by Vietnamese authorities led by the MIC has been underway since late May 2023.

The results of the investigation were originally scheduled to be released in July. This was later postponed due to TikTok's failure to properly explain its breaches.

The investigation found that TikTok Pte Ltd (TikTok Singapore) manages and provides cross-border services in Vietnam through the TikTok.com website and the TikTok app without the direct involvement of TikTok Technologies Vietnam Company Limited (TikTok Vietnam) and the representative office of TikTok Pte. Ltd in HCM City.

Do said that TikTok Singapore is the entity responsible for complying with Vietnamese protocols for providing cross-border services in Vietnam, and that TikTok Vietnam will be held accountable for violations in e-commerce operations under Vietnamese law.

The investigation found that TikTok violated regulations on storing information through content distribution networks in Vietnam, Do said.

"This includes fake, distorted information that incites violence, social evils, and content harmful to children," he said.

TikTok's content moderation and distribution process still allows content that violates Vietnamese laws, leading to the rapid spread of illegal content, he said.

"The company has also failed to install security measures to protect children's privacy, or carry out detection and removal of images, documents and content that are inappropriate for them."

According to the MIC official, TikTok Singapore does not have a policy to protect users' copyrighted content, nor does it submit its contacts to government authorities for matters related to copyright ownership.

Regarding the provision of e-commerce services, TikTok has not disclosed the app developer on the TikTok Shop homepage. The company also does not fully store seller information as required, nor does it fully verify information about goods on the e-commerce trading platform as required.

Do demanded that TikTok remove illegal content and prevent it from being re-uploaded, comply with Vietnamese laws on community guidelines, and issue regular notifications to all users to prevent content that violates regulations or dissent against the government.

"The company must also implement the necessary tools to protect children's privacy and healthy development, such as verifying the age of user accounts, limiting the usage time for people under 18, prohibiting children from earning money on the platform, and strictly regulating inappropriate content for age groups," Do said.

He said the MIC worked with a representative of TikTok Singapore, where it secured the company's commitment to implement the investigation team's requests within the next 30 days.

Nguyen Lam Thanh, Head of Public Policy at TikTok Vietnam, pledged close coordination with relevant ministries and agencies to implement the inspection's conclusions.

He reiterated that TikTok will abide by Vietnamese regulations while operating in the country.

"The company has complied with many of the requests, and some will take time to implement," he said.

Thanh said TikTok is keenly aware of the importance of ensuring users' safety and privacy online.

The company has sent out a policy instructing all users to fight and report 24 types of online scams, he said.

"We have received about 1.8 billion views and comments from Vietnamese users on the guide, proving that they are all aware of the knowledge and skills in anti-scam activities. It is an opportunity for TikTok to work with Vietnamese authorities to create better value for our local users," he said.