Facebook accused of breaking cyber laws in Vietnam

Vietnam has accused Facebook of breaking laws on content management, advertising and tax, and has said that the social media giant has failed to remove “slanderous content”, the Financial Times online reports.

The southeast Asian state has also said it may withhold advertising money allocated for payment to Facebook, in what is the first major overseas battle a tech company has come up against under new cyber security legislation.

The accusations were made by Vietnam’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information (ABEI) at a meeting in Hanoi last week. The following day, state-controlled media reported that the Ministry of Information and Communications was thinking about withholding taxes due to violations of Vietnam laws, and to stop money from supporting “hatred advertising” on the social network.

The reports maintained that Facebook was allowing the publication of “slanderous content, anti-government sentiment and libel and defamation of individuals, organisations and state agencies.” Cyber protection legislation which came into being on January 1st of this year had also been broken, the ministry said.

According to the ABEI, state security authorities were denied access to information on “fraudulent accounts”. It also said that Facebook delayed taking content down off the social media site which Facebook had considered fell within the parameters of community standards.

In response, Mark Zuckerberg’s team claimed it had removed content considered out of compliance with regional laws.

“We have a clear process for governments to report illegal content to us, and we review all these requests against our terms of service and local law. We are transparent about the content restrictions we make pursuant with local law in our transparency report,” a spokesperson for Facebook said.

The report focused on restricting access to posts concerning the illegal sale of regulated products, sales in wildlife and instances of profile impersonation. Facebook maintains action was taken about complaints regarding alleged defamation linked to Heineken and Nestle products that were processed through the ABEI.

Facebook has been silent on the accusations of violating Vietnamese law on advertising or tax issues. Vietnam’s economy is flourishing rapidly by Asian standards, and Facebook comes second only to Google in terms of most-used websites.

The social network is valued as a platform for political debate and is often used as a means to speak out against the Communist regime in charge.

More broadly, the Vietnam government is trying to reduce the power and influence of overseas tech groups by way of new legislation which obliges foreign firms to store data locally, and open a company branch in the eastern nation.

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