The incredible reach of social media is causing issues for governments and social media companies alike as they struggle with conflicts between free speech and the perceived interests of the state. The latest example in a growing number comes from Vietnam.
Vietnam has this week introduced what it calls national guidelines on social media behaviour. However, these aren’t just attempts to moderate speech that promotes violence or hate. According to Reuters, Vietnam is encouraging people to post positive content about the country. In addition state employees must report ‘conflicting information’, whatever that may be, to their superiors.
The code prohibits posts which violate the law and ‘affect the interests of the state’, and applies to state organisations, social media companies and all their users in Vietnam. It also discourages anonymous posting and insists that social media providers remove content from their platforms when asked to.
But is the code a law or a recommendation? It’s not clear. However, Vietnam is a one-party Communist state with a strong grip on the media, where news outlets and journalists risk sanctions for broaching sensitive topics and for criticising the government.
Facebook has already been threatened with closure in the country if it does not do more to censor local political content. This could be tricky for Facebook, at least in financial terms, as Vietnam generates a healthy sum for the social media giant, estimated at close to $1 billion.
Tension between social media groups and governments has been noticeable in a number of countries of late. As we reported recently, Twitter is having a tough time in Nigeria where it removed messages posted by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened secessionists with punishment. It now faces the threat of having to register a local unit and obtain a licence. Authorities in India and Mexico have also been threatening to do more to manage Twitter’s output.