Vietnam to increase scrutiny of livestream content on social media

social media livestream Vietnam
FILE PHOTO: Facebook app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s government is seeking to increase scrutiny of livestream content on social media such as Facebook and Google, in its latest move to rein in online activities it deems to be anti-state.

According to a draft decree by the information and communications ministry, cross-border social media platforms operating in Vietnam must provide contact information of account operators with more than 10,000 followers or subscribers. 

The ministry estimates the top 10 Vietnamese social media platforms have about 80 million users combined, while foreign competitors are dominant, with Facebook’s 65 million users, YouTube’s 60 million users and TikTok’s 20 million.

“These platforms have not fully abided by Vietnamese laws,” the ministry said. 

“A lot of content posted there is disinformation, causing instability and frustration in the society and inequality between domestic and foreign companies.”

Facebook and TikTok had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters, while Google did not immediately respond. 

The ministry said people were increasingly using platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok to deliver their own news or provide false information.

The draft has yet to be approved and requires social media providers to block or remove flagged content within 24 hours upon “justified” requests by Vietnamese individuals and affected organisations. 

“Virtually every country that has adopted laws relating to online content has jeopardised human rights in doing so,” said Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement at the U.N. human rights office.

“This happens both because governments respond to public pressure by rushing in with simple solutions for complex problems; and because some governments see this legislation as a way to limit speech they dislike,” Hicks said in a statement. 

Reuters reported last week social media “influencers” were more likely to be soldiers than celebrities, known as Force 47 and tasked with setting up, moderating and posting on pro-state Facebook groups, to correct “wrong views” online.

Vietnam has seen a major tightening of online content, with ramped up censorship of posts, culls on accounts spreading “wrong views” and frequent criticism by regulators of some global firms.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Martin Petty)

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