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Vietnam celebrates 25 years of internet with advertising blacklist

Facebook and YouTube among companies that will have to monitor user content

Vietnam has celebrated the 25th anniversary of its connection to the internet, and implemented a crackdown on online advertising that sees platforms like YouTube and Facebook responsible for the content that drives their ad revenue.

Deputy minister of Information and Communications Pham Duc Long lauded the internet as a "crucial part of infrastructure" and the "backbone of digital transformation" at an event in Hanoi late last week.

The ministry said over 70 percent of the country's population use the internet daily and broadband infrastructure covers a whopping 99.73 percent of hamlets and villages. Vietnam, population 98.17 million, also boasts 94.2 million smartphone users and 82.2 million mobile broadband subscribers. Furthermore, Vietnam ranks second in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the number of websites under its domestic domain extension (.vn) at 564,000.

Tran Thi Thu Hien, deputy director of the Vietnam Internet Network Information Centre (VNNIC), said the next phase of internet development in the country will include data protection and socioeconomic development activities.

The ministry has already taken some steps to regulate data flows by updating cybersecurity laws to mandate that technology companies store and manage user data locally, albeit with a one-year delay before the policy will be enforced.

According to the ministry, the country's goals include building the most advanced digital infrastructure in ASEAN by 2025 and complete nationwide 5G mobile service by 2030.

According to the Ministry of Information and Communications, the internet is shaping up to be pretty amazing – if only foreign tech companies would stop monetizing content of which it disapproves.

At the end of November, the ministry held a conference on online advertising in Vietnam and concluded that violations of local laws need fixing.

The ministry then drew up a list of accounts and channels it will ban from receiving advertising revenue for courting what it deems toxic content. Companies that advertise on blacklisted sites face punishment.

A list published for the fourth quarter of 2022 includes mostly gambling websites, but the ministry has also listed Facebook and YouTube. It described violations in advertising activities as "rampant."

The ministry has already fined 15 companies for ad violations in the past year – although the total fines, at $8,800, will not trouble Big Tech.

What has raised a Zuckerbergian eyebrow in the past was throttling Facebook in 2020 over the publishing of "anti-state" material on the social network. The move proved Vietnam is willing to take stronger action to force foreign players into compliance.

In addition to the publicly available list of forbidden content, the ministry has also developed a list of the online media and social networks it deems appropriate. That second list should be available in early 2023.

The Department of Radio, Television and Electronic Information said it would eventually require platforms to have filters that exclude violating content.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam Fake News Processing Center (VAFC) said that as of November it had received and processed 4,363 reports, labeled 50 sites as fake news, and required the removal of over 3,120 articles it deemed "toxic." ®

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