Illegal Hate Speech and Upcoming Actions from the Vietnam Government
The Vietnam Program for Internet & Society, the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH) - Vietnam National University (VNU), coordinated with the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI), Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), to organize a Symposium: "Illegal Hate Speech and Solutions Towards a Safe and Sustainable Social Network Environment in Vietnam which was attended by MIC representatives, business representatives, legal professionals and organization representatives on 12 April 2017 at the Army Hotel in Hanoi.
1.1. Current regulations of Vietnam regarding social network
(a) Legal basis and the current regulations of Vietnam regarding "Vietnamese" social network
Currently, the provision of social network to Vietnamese end-users is regulated under, among others, the following:
(i) Decree 72/2013/ND-CP dated 15 July 2013 of the Government on management, provision and use of Internet services and online information (Decree No. 72);
(ii) Circular No. 09/2014/TT-BTTTT dated 19 August 2014 of the MIC providing specific regulations on management, provision and use of information on websites and social networks (Circular No. 09).
Pursuant to Decree No. 72 and Circular No. 09, provision of social network must be subject to specific requirements (i.e., licensing, technical and personnel requirements).
Decree No. 72 requires that foreign entities that supply "public information" on a cross-border basis must comply with "relevant rules" of Vietnamese law if: (i) there are users in Vietnam, or (ii) the service is being accessed from Vietnam. However, Decree No. 72 does not stipulate which "rules" of Vietnamese law are "relevant" in this context. Thus, it is not clear whether cross-border social network providers must be subject to licensing, technical, and personnel requirements on social network under Decree No. 72 and Circular No. 09, and what level of presence in Vietnam will trigger such requirements.
As clarified by the MIC at the Symposium, licensing, technical, and personnel requirements for provision of social networks under Decree No. 72 and Circular No. 09 only apply to "Vietnamese" social networks. Provision of cross-border social networks will not be subject to licensing requirements under Vietnamese law. Vietnamese social networks can be interpreted as social networks whose providers are entities established in Vietnam.
However, it still remains unclear whether a social network will be considered as a "Vietnamese social network" if the cross-border social network provider establishes a representative office in Vietnam.
(b) Take down request/procedure
Circular No. 38/2016/TT-BTTTT provides detailed regulations on the cross-border provision of public information, including the provision via social network platforms ("Circular No. 38"). Circular No. 38 imposes certain requirements on an offshore service provider such as the take down requirement. Click here for our client alert on Circular No. 38.
Currently, the basis to identify infringing content that is subject to takedown requests is Article 5 of Decree No. 72. Article 5 provides the categories of infringing content, such as content that opposes the State of Vietnam. However, Article 5 does not provide detailed description nor parameters to help identify what constitutes such infringing content (nor are there well documented precedents in this regard). For example, whether a video showing protests against an allegedly corrupt government official would, in itself, be considered as infringing content.
1.2. Code of conduct for social network in Vietnam
The Vietnam Program For Internet Society has proposed a draft Code of Conduct for Social Network. This draft Code of Conduct has been developed based on the European Commission's Code of Conduct on illegal online hate speech.
Please contact us for a copy of the unofficial English translation of the draft Code of Conduct for your reference.
Upcoming Actions from the Government
On 18 April 2017, during a question-and-answer session as part of the National Assembly Standing Committee’s ninth session in Hanoi, Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan repeated the message that Vietnamese social networks are now flooded with toxic content like hate speech and fake news, and stated that in the upcoming months, the MIC will also work with offshore social networks to remove pages impersonating Party and State leaders, as well as work with the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) and the telecom provider Viettel in this regard. Other measures include building a management mechanism that enables the use of a filtering and system that promptly discovers and halts the display of violating information.