Minister Truong Minh Tuan told reporters last week that one of the top priorities in his action plan after taking office is making sure the operator of any foreign social network will comply with the law.
The minister did not name any particular social networking site, however. Vietnam had some 30 million Facebook users, according to a report released in July 2015 by the world’s largest social network.
Minister Tuan, together with nearly 20 other ministers of the new government, was voted in by the lawmaking National Assembly on April 9, and will officially take office once their appointment decisions are signed by newly-elected Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The new information and communications minister seeks to build “a healthy information environment,” at a time when social networking sites have “begun showing their darker side,” he told reporters in Hanoi.
In a separate interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Minister Tuan underlined that Vietnam “does not ban social networks,” but has to “limit its bad effects.”
“Every day, any individual or organization can fall victim to the darker side of social networks, such as copyright infringement, humiliation, or privacy violation,” he said.
He added that as most social networking sites operate in a borderless manner, the Vietnamese state budget is affected as the government cannot collect taxes from these platforms.
“With hi-tech devices getting cheaper and cheaper, SMS spam and the abuse of digital gadgets have become a big social issue and a threat to national security,” he underlined.
Tuan added that the Ministry of Information and Communications will consult the government to “negotiate with [operators] of social network sites to ask them to operate within the Vietnamese legal framework.”
As for those who take advantage of social networks and hi-tech devices to humiliate or breach the privacy of others, Tuan said there are already legal regulations to punish them.
“But we have to admit that the law has not been enforced seriously enough,” he said.
The minister also calls on the community to join hands in developing a “code of conduct” for social network users.
On the other hand, local Internet service providers and mobile carriers should also take on their responsibility “for the sake of national interests and social benefits.”
“It is now very easy to buy a new SIM card or open a new account on a social networking site, which is convenient for users but causes difficulty for authorities to control them,” he said.
“We demand that mobile operators set out stricter requirements for their customers.”
Asked if the upcoming measures will breach citizens’ freedom of information and speech, Minister Tuan underscored that they are not meant to block social networks in Vietnam.
“We only want to limit their bad sides, as many other countries are doing,” he said. “Overseeing social networks does not mean prohibiting them.”
The official added that freedom of speech follows the “harm principle” and “offense principle,” and consequently “people should learn carefully to know their rights and interests.”