Facebook users face $2,200 fine for posting 'harmful' content in Vietnam

Facebook users face $2,200 fine for posting 'harmful' content in Vietnam

An illustration picture shows social media apps on a mobile device. Photo by Reuters


Vietnam’s communications ministry has proposed fines of up to VND50 million ($2,200) for those using social media to spread distorted information or to expose other people’s secrets.


Le Quang Tu Do, a senior broadcasting official at the Ministry of Information and Communications, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the proposal has been made following the rapid growth of social networks in Vietnam and their “increasing influence”.


The proposal suggests penalties of between VND30-50 million for people who share false or libelous information that defames individuals or organizations. Users will face the same punishment for creating fake pages or hacking into the accounts of other people or organizations.


Vietnam's annual average income was around $2,200 last year, according to official statistics.


Those who disclose a person or organization’s secrets on social media without the party’s consent will be fined between VND20-30 million, the proposal said. The same penalty will be imposed for detailed descriptions of sexual offenses or horrific attacks or accidents, it said.


For now, the ministry is polling public opinions on the proposal and has not revealed any details of how the fines would be issued. 


Vietnam has 49 million internet users, or more than half of population, and more than 45 million social media accounts. Facebook is the most popular social network in the country with around 35 million users.


While social networks have become a bigger part of the internet-savvy community, a new study by the Vietnam Program for Internet and Society at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi found they often serve as a platform for public trashing and hate speech.


Nearly 80 percent of the 1,000 internet users surveyed said they were either victims or had witnessed public condemnation on Facebook or other sites, the research team told a conference in April.


The Vietnamese government has taken various steps to embrace social media. Vietnam’s health minister launched her official Facebook page more than two years ago to provide health information and receive questions from the public. That was months before Vietnam’s central government opened its own Facebook page in October 2015.


The government is also working with global giants to enhance internet management.


Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, pledged to help Vietnam prevent and remove "bad" information on its video site YouTube at a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last month.


Facebook in April also promised to cooperate with the Vietnamese government to block “bad” and “toxic” content.


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