Vietnam's government struggles to counter what it calls 'fake news'

While the removal rate on international news sites reached 95% there has been a surge in misinformation, it claims.
By RFA Vietnamese
2022.08.10
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Vietnam's government struggles to counter what it calls 'fake news' Facebook page of Vietnamese government commentators in 2021.
Reuters

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information & Communication says it is cracking down on “online fake and malicious news,” spread by users in a country where tens of millions of people use global social networking sites every day despite tough censorship and media controls.

The issue of distorted reports that could spread confusion and misinformation was brought up by legislators at the country’s National Assembly during the 14th session of the NA’s Standing Committee.

State-controlled media carried quotes by Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung on Wednesday.

Hung said “fake news” mainly appeared on homepages of global sites such as Facebook and YouTube. He said the multinational platforms had increased their response to Vietnamese removal requests from 20% in 2018 to 90-95% today. 

Hung said before 2018 there were about 5,000 stories and videos that were deemed to be untrue by the government, which asked for them to be removed. He said the number has increased 20-fold to 100,000 stories and videos a day.

Last year the ministry set up the Vietnam Counterfeit News Center to tackle the problem.

It also ordered the National Cyber ​​​​Safety Center to detect “false information,” as early as possible. The processing capacity of the center has increased from 100 million messages per day to 300 million.

The ministry has also issued an online code of conduct to establish standards of behavior by social network users and persuade them to act responsibly in their written and video posts.

Hung said since the beginning of the year hundreds of violations on spreading “fake news” have been recorded and handled. A number of cases identified as criminal violations have been transferred to the Ministry of Public Security.

Facebook said 20 million Vietnamese use the social networking site every day, 17 million of them on mobile devices. The country is 13% above the global average in terms of daily usage, Facebook said.

YouTube had 66.63 million users in Vietnam last year, according to the data website Statista.com, which estimates the number will rise to 75.44 million by 2025.

Vietnam led the Asia Pacific in terms of the number of YouTube broadcasters late last year, according to local website VNExpress, with 25 million live streamers.

Vietnam is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index for 2022.

"The political apparatus has a tailor-made legislative arsenal that allows it to imprison any news and information provider who proves troublesome," said the Paris-based RSF.

"Around 40 journalists are currently held in Vietnam’s prisons, where mistreatment is widespread," it said.

"The many topics subject to censorship include political dissidents, cases of corruption involving senior officials, the single party’s legitimacy, relations with China and, of course, human rights issues," RSF said in May.

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