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Reports: Vietnam to Limit News on Social Media

A man uses an iPad device in a coffee shop in Hanoi, Vietnam May 18, 2018. (REUTERS/Kham/File Photo)
A man uses an iPad device in a coffee shop in Hanoi, Vietnam May 18, 2018. (REUTERS/Kham/File Photo)
Reports: Vietnam to Limit News on Social Media
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Three people said Vietnam is preparing new rules to limit which social media accounts can publish news-related information.

Officials in the Southeast Asian country are aiming to take more control over news and information.

Reuters news agency reports that the rules might be announced by the end of the year but details have not been finished.

The rules would establish a legal basis for controlling the spread of news on services like Facebook and YouTube. At the same time, two of the people Reuters spoke to added that the rules will place a notable amount of responsibility on the social media services to control their information.

The people who were the sources of the report asked to not be named because the discussions remain secret.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications and Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not answer requests for comment.

One source said, “The government wants to fix what it sees as the 'news-lisation' of social media.” "News-lisation," or “báo hoá” in Vietnamese, is a term used by the officials to describe the misleading of users into thinking that social media accounts are official news sources.

The mobile phone apps for, from left, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are shown on a device in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
The mobile phone apps for, from left, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are shown on a device in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The sources said government officials have been holding secret meetings with popular social media and internet firms. The meetings are to discuss with the companies on which kinds of accounts will be permitted to post news under the new rules.

The sources said officials would be able to order social media companies to ban accounts that break those rules.

Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party already highly censors media and permits little dissent. And the country has one of the world’s most severe policing of online behavior, including guidelines on how to act on social media.

Two sources with direct knowledge told Reuters that more rules on internet and social media websites would be introduced in late 2022 to early 2023.

Young Vietnamese increasingly turn to social media for information. But websites have become the target of government efforts to restrict the flow of news from unofficial sources.

Vietnam is a top-10 market for the social media site Facebook with 60 million to 70 million users, information from 2021 says. Sources with information on the social media site said Vietnam produces about $1 billion in yearly revenue for the company.

2021 government estimates for social media sites show that YouTube has 60 million users in Vietnam and TikTok has 20 million. Twitter has smaller numbers.

Meta, the owner of Facebook, and Twitter did not comment. Alphabet, the owner of Google and Youtube, did not answer requests for comment. TikTok said in a statement that it deals with violations based on law and its guidelines. But it did not comment on the possible upcoming Vietnam regulations.

The Vietnamese government had begun following a set of non-binding guidelines on what it considers a news service to be. They included guidelines to tell the difference between “real” and “fake” news. The government warned that some social media sites included accounts that mislead users into thinking they are newspapers.

Those guidelines are expected to be included into the new rules, which will be binding.

Sources told Reuters that the officials are also expected to create new rules that would require social media sites to immediately take down information considered harmful to national security. They would have to remove the illegal content within 24 hours.

The release of the new rules had been planned for July. Sources told Reuters in April that the new rules showed the government’s dissatisfaction with social media sites’ ability to remove material considered unacceptable.

The new rules will be carried out through amendments to the country’s main internet law.

Vietnam in August also created new rules that will come into effect from October that will require technology companies to store users’ data locally and to set up local offices.

I’m Gregory Stachel.

Fanny Potkin and Phuong Nguyen reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

source –n. someone who provides information

firm –n. a business organization

post ­­–n. a message or piece of information on a social media service

censor v. to examine books, movies, or letters in order to remove things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, or harmful to society

revenue –n. money that is made by or paid to a business

bind v. to make (something, such as an agreement) certain

fake adj. not true or real


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