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Vietnam struggling to handle rumors on Facebook

Monday, April 14, 2014, 11:38 GMT+7
Vietnam struggling to handle rumors on Facebook
Ngo Dinh Son posted this photo on his Facebook account in February 2014 to make up a shocking story that the sedan's driver, who was Son himself, got out and shot dead two people on the truck after their collision.

Authorities in Vietnam find it hard to deal with rumors and falsified information that have recently run rampant on social networks like Facebook.

“It is difficult and complicated,” admitted a senior police officer from the PC50 police unit of Hanoi’s Police Department, who wished to be anonymous.    

Another high-ranking official from the PA83 police unit under the management of the Ministry of Public Security confirmed to Tuoi Tre newspaper that several individuals and organizations have used the Internet to their advantage to badmouth, slander, or humiliate others for their different purposes.

He said it is not easy to identify the offenders, especially those whose host computers are based in foreign countries but affirmed that police are hunting for them.

The official added that such cyber-libel is subject to criminal charges or fines depending on the consequences of their acts under Vietnamese laws. However, administrative fines are more common.

Under the Vietnamese government decree No. 174 that took effect on April 15 this year, if individuals or organizations post incorrect and/or falsified information on the Internet, they will be fined from VND20 million (US$950)  to VND50 million ($2,370).

Examples

Police in Hanoi have recently arrested Nguyen Van Tien, a fifth-year student at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, for creating Facebook fan pages which contained distorted information to harm local organizations and enterprises.

According to investigators, Tien used two of his Facebook accounts to set up about 100 marketing fan pages in order to sell them to local enterprises just to attract no attention from them.

Angry and disappointed, the young man added bad words to the names of the pages to ruin the reputation of those who had ignored his offers.  

In July last year, police in the central city of Da Nang received a petition from N.T.P.T., a 21-year-old woman in Thanh Khe District, who fell victim to another Facebook fan page which attracted more than 16,000 likes then.

In the letter, she said that she was a victim of the fan page “Bộ mặt thật của các hot teen Đà thành” (The Unmasked Faces of Da Nang Hotties) that included posts with filthy content about the private lives of roughly 50 schoolgirls at several major schools across the city.

Three masterminds behind the page were detained in early August that year and received a fine of VND10 million ($474) while four others involved were given a warning.

One month later, police in Da Nang also slapped a VND 10 million ($474) fine on Truong Thanh Nam, a resident in Hai Chau District, for creating a Facebook fan page to flame his former boss Nguyen Thanh Truong, director of a company in the district, with erroneous information, pictures and content.

Meanwhile, on February 21 this year, people in the central province of Quang Binh were terribly worried after reading a made-up story on Facebook about a fatal shooting that took place in the province.

The story was about a local young man crashing his Toyota Camry into a truck. After that, the Camry driver got out and shot dead two people on the truck and fled away, the Facebook post said.

The rumor was first spread by the driver himself, 21-year-old Ngo Dinh Son, a native in Quang Binh’s Dong Hoi City. Son later confessed to local police that he posted the story on his Facebook to lure likes and people’s attention.  

Despite the harmful effects of his action, Son was merely fined VND25 million or $1,185 for “disseminating false information and rumors on the Internet to cause bad influences on public opinions,” according to local police.

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