Google agrees to block “toxic” content in Vietnam: govt

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

HANOI (Reuters) – Google’s parent firm, Alphabet, will work with Vietnam’s communist government to stamp out “toxic” and illegal information on its platform, the Southeast Asian nation said on Friday.

Vietnam tolerates little dissent and human rights groups and western countries have criticized its arrests of anti-government bloggers.

In February, Vietnam complained about “toxic” anti-government and offensive content on Facebook and Google’s YouTube application, pressuring domestic firms to withhold advertising until the social media firms found a solution.

Alphabet made the assurance during a meeting of Chairman Eric Schmidt and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi on Friday, the government said on its website.

“Mr. Eric Schmidt said [he] will tightly cooperate with Vietnam to remove toxic information violating Vietnamese laws and will consider opening a representative office in the country,” it said in a statement.

Google said it had no immediate plan for an office in Vietnam, however.

“We have clear policies for removal requests from governments around the world, and those policies have not changed,” spokesman Taj Meadows said in an email.

“We rely on governments to notify us of content that they believe is illegal through official processes, and where appropriate, will restrict it after a thorough review.”

Besides meeting the prime minister, Schmidt met Vietnamese people engaged in fields ranging from technology to healthcare and art, including singer and activist Mai Khoi.

“I told Eric about Vietnam’s internet censorship issue and he said he knew about it and would try to improve internet freedom here in a delicate way,” Khoi told Reuters.

Vietnam makes up a very small part of the business operations of companies such as Facebook and Google, but is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and a hot investment target for global consumer brands.

YouTube and Facebook account for two-thirds of digital media market share in the country, the domestic agency Isobar Vietnam says.

(By My Pham; Reporting by My Pham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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