Vietnam Proposes Draft Decree Tightening Control Over Social Networks
- Vietnam’s government published a draft decree proposing amendments and new regulations related to internet services and online information.
- If implemented, only licensed social networks will be allowed to provide livestreaming services and other revenue-generating services for users.
- Vietnam Briefing highlights major revisions in this draft decree in relation to social networks in Vietnam, as well as the obligations imposed on foreign social network providers.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) on July 6 issued a draft decree to amend both Decree No. 72/2013/ND-CP (Decree 72) on the management, provision and use of internet services and online information and Decree No.27/2018/ND-CP (Decree 27) which amended and supplemented several articles in Decree No.72. The draft decree is now open for public consultation via the Government Portal.
With the proposed amendment, the government aims to tighten control over livestreaming activities that generate revenue on social networks and impose obligations on cross-border social network service providers in Vietnam such as Facebook and YouTube.
New legal definitions provided
In the draft decree, several important concepts and definitions related to social networks such as ‘fanpage’, ‘channel’, ‘livestreams’, and ‘multi-service social network’ are legally codified for the first time.
In this context, the decree defines services such as:
- Cross-border information: means the utilization of websites, social networking sites, online applications, search services or any other similar methods by foreign organizations and individuals, to provide information services for consumers in Vietnam, who can access and use such services in Vietnam.
- User account: is defined as an account that an individual, group, or organization has set up on a social network, to access and use the services and features provided by that social network platform.
- Livestream is a feature that allows the user account to broadcast video in real-time.
Responsibilities of foreign providers of social networks in Vietnam
The draft proposes that foreign cross-border information providers, who have either rented digital information storage in Vietnam or have more than 100,000 unique visitors per month have to provide their contact information to the MIC. This includes organization name, trading names, head offices, location of the primary server, and the servers located in Vietnam (if any).
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In addition, they also have to submit an annual report by December 31 every year and submit an ad-hoc report upon request of the MIC’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI).
Only social network providers that have obtained licenses to provide social network services from the MIC have the right to provide livestreaming services or other revenue-generating services.
In particular, social networking sites (SNS) that have more than 10,000 unique visitors per month are required to get their licenses approved by the MIC, while SNS’ that have less than 10,000 unique visitors monthly only need to notify the ABEI in writing; however, if they want to provide livestreaming or other revenue-generating services on their platform, they will be required to get a license from the MIC.
In addition, both domestic and foreign social network providers can only allow user accounts, fanpages, and channels that have notified their contact information to the MIC to livestream and participate in revenue-generating services in any form.
More specifically, social network providers have to provide contact information of user accounts, fanpages, and channels with more than 10,000 subscribers or followers to the MIC. Those that have less than 10,000 subscribers or followers do not have to inform the MIC unless they want to livestream or engage in other services that generate income.
Handling content deemed illegal
Upon request of the MIC, service providers and individuals engaged in cross-border information are obliged to remove illegal content and services within 24 hours. In the case of livestreaming videos that violate the law, they must be blocked and taken down within three hours of the MIC’s request.
The MIC will have to resort to other legal measures to have the illegal content, services, and online applications blocked if cross-border information providers do not act promptly within the time limit. This can be extended to other competent state authorities if the service providers are deemed to have violated Vietnam’s laws and threaten national security.
What it means for foreign social network providers in Vietnam
The new proposed draft plans to strengthen the cybersecurity sphere in Vietnam, considering the massive domestic demand for foreign providers of social networks – such as Facebook with 65 million users in Vietnam, YouTube with 60 million users, and Tiktok with 20 million users, according to the MIC. While Vietnamese social media firms are still growing strong, their influence and popularity nationwide are limited compared to foreign social network providers.
According to the MIC, these foreign firms have yet to fully comply with Vietnamese laws. The authorities are concerned with the spread of fake news and infringing content circulating on social networking sites being inadequately supervised by cross-border information providers, causing social instability.
The draft decree if implemented may have a significant impact on organizations, enterprises, and individuals engaged in social network provisions across the border. The lengthy licensing procedures, restriction on the mobility of information as well as timely compliance are some of the issues that foreign investors may have to take into consideration in providing social network services in Vietnam.