Vietnamese Social Media Platform Fined, Suspended Over Vague ‘Violations’

Vietnamese authorities have temporarily closed one of the country’s social media platforms, fining the business over $4,000 and revoking its license for eight months in a move further tightening government control over the sharing of information online, state media sources say.

VNbrands.vn, belonging to the Vietnam Digital Brands Joint Stock Company, was fined 105 million Vietnamese dollars (U.S. $4,100) on May 7 by Vietnam’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information for what authorities said was an inadequate disclosure of service conditions and agreements on its homepage.

VNbrands’ operating license was also suspended for eight months, media sources said, adding that the company had further provided “insufficient or inaccurate” information related to its license and owner’s name.

Over the past few years, Vietnam has tightened its controls over the sharing of information on social media, with many users fined or even prosecuted and jailed on charges of publishing “fake” or unverified information—especially concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Vietnam’s recent ruling Party Congress, which elected the country’s new leadership group.

In 2020, Vietnam’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information and Hanoi’s and Ho Chi Minh City’s Departments of Information and Communications levied administrative fines of over VND 700 million in over 37 cases of violations, official sources said.

With Vietnam’s following Communist Party orders, “the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists, who are being subjected to ever-harsher forms of persecution,” the press freedoms watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says in its 2021 Press Freedoms Index.

Measures taken against them now include fines, jailings, and assaults by plainclothes police, RSF said in its report, which placed Vietnam at 175 out of 180 countries surveyed worldwide, a ranking unchanged from last year’s.

In northeastern Vietnam’s Bac Giang province meanwhile, authorities summoned a young user of the TikTok video-sharing service, fining him VND 3.7 million (less than U.S. $200) for wrapping himself in the Vietnamese national flag as a stunt to attract viewers, state media sources reported on May 5.

Identified by media sources as “H.V.K.,” the resident of Bac Giang’s Luc Ngan district told district police he had joined TikTok in June 2020 and had already gained over 100,000 followers and 1.4 million likes on his account.

He had used the flag as a prop in filming a video, he said, and had taken the video down after receiving a torrent of criticism online.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney

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