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Vietnam to require registration of social media, even on global platforms

Show some ID or your Facebook feed might not make it across the border

Vietnam's deputy minister of information and communications has indicated the nation will require all social media accounts to be registered – even those held on platforms run outside Vietnam but used within the country.

As reported by national broadcaster Voice of Vietnam (VOV), the government will introduce a requirement for registration in an effort to reduce criminals' access to social media.

The requirement will fall on local and offshore services, and deputy minister Nguyen Thanh Lam said anonymous accounts held on Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube will be "challenged, blocked, and handled at different levels."

Vietnam already requires verification of identities for users of SIM cards – a measure introduced to reduce spam TXTs.

Extending registration requirements to social media is being touted as the SIM registration drive has led some criminals to adopt over-the-top services to run their scams.

Nguyen did not indicate how he intends to have non-Vietnamese services register users – especially users from outside the country. He pledged that forthcoming draft legislation would explain how the government intends to make this happen.

If implemented, Vietnam would not be alone in requiring registration of social media accounts. China does it and, like China, Vietnam is a single-party Communist state.

Vietnam is, however, rather more open than China. Global social networks are easily accessible, which is not the case in China. Indeed, when your correspondent recently visited Vietnam I found WhatsApp was utterly ubiquitous – at least among tourism service providers. (The lost luggage desk at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport was a terrible correspondent by email but responded far quicker on WhatsApp – but that’s another story.)

The requirement for universal registration will need to be handled with care, as there's potential to make it harder for citizens to use services they rely on.

Big Tech is also likely to oppose the requirement to verify users. While most tech companies will regard Vietnam's young and growing population of 100 million souls as an important growth market, the likes of Facebook and TikTok tend not to enjoy being asked to gather information about users for governments to use – they’d rather use it themselves. ®

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