Vietnam Government Pushing Law That Would Require Social Media Companies To Remove ‘Illegal’ Content Within 24 Hours

from the demanding-the-impossible-for-fun-and-profit dept

Feeling the crunch of this economy? Why not leverage government power to create a sustainable revenue stream? That’s the plan in Vietnam, a country not unfamiliar with regular deployments of censorial efforts by the government.

The Vietnamese government keeps the internet — and its citizens — on a short leash. Only so much free expression is allowed and that “free” expression had better steer clear of criticizing the government. The government literally polices the internet with a 10,000-employee strong internet task force that monitors the internet for “wrongful views.” It also leverages social media companies’ built-in tools to silence dissent.

To maintain control on citizens’ speech, the government has demanded foreign platforms maintain a local presence in the form of Vietnam-located data centers. It also is quick to complain when it feels foreign internet services aren’t as responsive to its censorship demands as it would like.

As has been noted multiple times here at Techdirt, moderation at scale is impossible. And every new demand for government makes it just that much more impossible. This matters not to the Vietnamese government, which apparently believes it can turn this truism into cashable checks, according to this Reuters exclusive.

Vietnam is preparing new rules requiring social media firms to take down content it deems illegal within 24 hours, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The planned amendments to current law will cement Vietnam, a $1 billion market for Facebook, as one of the world’s most stringent regimes for social media firms and will strengthen the ruling Communist Party’s hand as it cracks down on “anti-state” activity.

To ensure foreign platforms remain solid revenue streams, there will be no grace period granted to those who can’t find and/or eliminate the offending content within 24 hours. The proposed law also makes platforms subject to fines for not removing “illegal livestreams” within three hours.

This law would allow the Vietnamese government to print (foreign) currency. On top of these impossible demands lies another demand that is at vague as it is profitable.

Social media companies have also been told content that harms national security must be taken down immediately, according to two of the people and a third source.

National security is in the eye of the government beholder, which means social media services won’t necessarily know what to take down until they’ve been informed they’re already in violation of the super-vague law. Win-win for cash-strapped autocrats. Lose-lose for citizens unhappy with their representation and foreign companies who have yet to exit the Vietnamese market.

Why is this happening? Well, it looks like further censorship and rent-seeking from the Vietnamese government. It’s not like US companies haven’t done what they can to satiate the censorial regime.

According to data from Vietnam’s communications ministry, during the first quarter of 2022, Facebook complied with 90% of the government’s take-down requests, Alphabet complied with 93% and TikTok complied with 73%.

Not good enough, says a government that has found compliance to be unprofitable. The only solution — at least when you’re looking for sustainable revenue streams — is to create impossible situations that can be turned into fines, fees, threats, and excuses to craft even more legislative impossibilities to mitigate the future loss of income as companies exit the market or refine their algorithms.

This is Vietnam soaking the rich in the most self-serving way possible. It allows the government to dip into platforms’ billions while censoring criticism of the government by its population. Vietnam’s government has never cared what the rest of the world thinks about it, much less how its citizens feel about its overreach. With this proposal, it has the tools to stay funded while deliberately (and lawfully) ignoring criticism.

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Companies: facebook, google, tiktok, twitter

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Comments on “Vietnam Government Pushing Law That Would Require Social Media Companies To Remove ‘Illegal’ Content Within 24 Hours”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Disgusting but makes perfect sense as this is a win-win for the government when you think about it.

The companies take down anything that even might trigger the fine, allowing the government to offload the majority of suppression of the public and any opposing views onto those companies and when they don’t pull something down quick enough then the companies are turned upside down and shaken for as much money as the government cares for. So long as the government doesn’t get too greedy and only takes less than the company makes then they’re likely to stick around for the long term, becoming for all intents and purposes just another bludgeon to use.

An oppressive government and agreeable companies that don’t mind figuratively swinging the headsman’s axe so long as they can profit from it, a match made in hades.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3

I read that fucking comment. 😉

The human world is but one small pebble in a vast universe of things. Humans and other living beings are even all related to one another. So why should I constrain my thinking to the geographical area of the world where the problem is happening and only relate it to the bad guys in vicinity?

Re compare to “actually repressive regimes”. Repressions come in many forms and it’s not a digital thing (either be repressive or don’t). On the repressive scale it always can get worse. Germany and other Western countries claim for themselves some fine values. This creates some expectations. In the case of NetzDG, to weed out hate speech, Germany has betrayed these values and it has moved Germany on the scale to the repressive side a bit. It’s perfectly fine to call it out. In fact it’s an obligation in order to stifle the push on the scale.

Vietnam, meanwhile, is taking the playing book from Germany and expanding it even further repressive-wise. In Germany, the reporting requirements were to be expanded similarly to how Vietnam is now considering. Luckily it was scrapped due to a likely defeat of the government in court proceedings. Which shows that the rule of law still works in Germany, which is fine. Still, doesn’t absolve from the requirement to call out constitutional bullshit, which is coming in a constant stream from Germany lawmakers (I can look up the very long document documenting the stream).

nasch (profile) says:


Win-win for cash-strapped autocrats. Lose-lose for citizens unhappy with their representation and foreign companies who have yet to exit the Vietnamese market.

“Win-win” doesn’t mean “extra super duper win”. The “win” and “win” in “win-win” is for the two parties in a transaction or situation. So it’s a win-win if it’s a win for me, and also a win for you. In this case, with government on one side and citizens on the other, this isn’t a win-win plus a lose-lose, it’s a win-lose.

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