Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has said in a recent report that Facebook and Google have to comply with Vietnamese regulations. Specifically the two companies must abide by regulations related to opening representative offices in Vietnam, managing and blocking unlawful content and advertisements, and manage and store personal data of Vietnamese using each portal.
Related to online content that is illegal, the MIC has said that both portals must police and block content from websites that have international domain names and their servers placed overseas, since the MIC and other government agencies are unable to locate the locations of most of the violators..
According to the MIC’s report, the government has not been successful in getting foreign companies to take down illegal content and provide the information on people uploading illegal content.
Both Facebook and Google have their own community standards, which govern accounts of individuals and the text, image and video content they upload. When asked by the government to remove content, both Facebook and Google have rejected requests to remove content, saying that their community policies have not been violated.
The MIC and the two tech companies have set-up channels in Vietnam to discuss the content that the governments was banned and removed. Creating a layer of confusion related to content is the reality that content can be posted and reposted numerous times by the same individual using different account names, or by individuals cooperating together to post content.
The position of the technology companies is that their human and technology operations do not allow them to identify offensive content before it goes online, and the best that they can do is to take down offensive and illegal content once they are notified about it and they have the chance to review the content.
The position of the Vietnamese government is that the portals are responsible for ensuring that their operations and technology systems should be managed in a manner that allows them to identify illegal content before it goes online. The government also believes that individuals who are posting content should be identified by personal data so that legal action can be taken against offenders.
Vietnam enacted a 43 article Cybersecurity law, which became effective on January 1st of this year. The law has the intention of regulating all activities that “protect national security and ensure public safety and order on the Internet.”
Vietnam’s prime minister has ordered government agencies to work out measures to stop Facebook and Google from receiving money from cross-border advertising, ecommerce and other transactions from Vietnamese users.
Accordingly, the government is focusing on advertising, content and ecommerce revenues from both companies and individuals and whether taxes are being paid on sales that are generated through Facebook and YouTube. The government also wants to receive taxes from the portals from their Vietnamese revenue and profits.
Additionally, the government expects both Facebook and Google to open representative offices in the country and to store all personal data from Vietnam users of the websites, in Vietnam, per the cybersecurity law. The government expects the representative offices to also participate in identifying and monitoring illegal content and to block it without the government being involved at a “micro-level.”
According to government reports, both Facebook and Google have cooperated with the government to remove illegal content, but the process to remove content is cumbersome and takes too long.
The government says that:
• Facebook has deleted 208 fake accounts, 2,444 links for illegal products and services, 200+ links to false articles about the government, as well as 215 pages for gambling.
• Google has blocked 7,000+ videos, deleted 19 channels broadcasting ‘toxic content’ on YouTube, and removed 58 games infringing Vietnamese law from Google Play.