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Facebook, Vietnamese ministry reach agreements on toxic content, fake account crackdowns

Thursday, April 27, 2017, 17:00 GMT+7

Facebook has pledged to prioritize a purge of fake accounts that impersonate Vietnamese leaders and public figures on the world’s largest social network following a meeting between its policy head and Vietnam’s information chief this week.

Vietnamese Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan welcomed Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook, to Hanoi on Wednesday to discuss cooperation between the social network and the Vietnamese government in ‘purifying’ the platform’s content among local users.

According to the Vietnamese government, there are a number of imposter accounts circulating false, anti-state information on Facebook which Vietnam considers ‘toxic content’ that cannot be appropriately handled without active support and cooperation from the California-based tech company.

What is ‘toxic content’?

There are now 129 fake accounts responsible for publishing 4,120 posts and attracting hundreds of thousands of comments, over 243,000 shares, and 833,000 likes on Facebook, according to the ministry’s statistics.

Most of the inauthentic profiles claim to be operated by the country’s top leaders.

State President Tran Dai Quang and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc both have four fake Facebook profiles under their names, while as many as six imposter accounts claim to be Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, and ten accounts claim to be Dinh La Thang, Ho Chi Minh City Party chief.

These are only the tip of the iceberg, with hundreds of other fake accounts on the network claiming to belong to government leaders and officials, public figures, and popular brands, according to the information ministry.

YiukhCBg.pngA screenshot of a Facebook page claiming to be State President Tran Dai Quang

Creating bogus accounts is one of four Facebook-related activities prohibited under Vietnamese law, the minister told his Facebook guest.

The other three offenses include Facebook pages that spread anti-state information; accounts that advertise and market banned products and services; and profiles that either incite hate and violence or defame brands, individuals, and/or organizations.

The ministry underlined that 58 Facebook pages have been found conducting anti-government activities, including the dissemination of false information regarding internal conflicts between Vietnamese leaders and inciting protests against state policies.

There are 340 accounts selling bogus, contraband and prohibited products, and 2,200 profiles that post nothing other than hate, violence, and defamation in their updates, according to the ministry.

Fast-track protocol for Vietnam

Responding to the ‘toxic Facebook content’ concern by the Vietnamese government, Bickert said Facebook has a code of conduct for all of its users, underlining that imposter accounts or defamation and hate profiles have no place on the social network.

Facebook is committed to immediately removing content violating those guidelines upon receiving reports or complaints, she added.

After the meeting, Facebook and the Ministry of Information and Communications reached four agreements on keeping the social network environment clean and safe for Vietnamese users.

The first commitment is that Facebook will prioritize the removal of fake accounts, especially those impersonating Party and government leaders.

The social network will also set up an exclusive channel to maintain contact with the information ministry and other Vietnamese regulatory agencies so that violations reported by the Southeast Asian country can be resolved in a fast-track protocol.

As part of the third and fourth agreements, Facebook will cooperate with the information ministry to offer training programs to local businesses and state officers in using the social network for economic development and communication with the public.

Around 70 percent of Vietnam’s 92 million citizens have Internet access, with some 45 million being Facebook users, according to the information ministry.

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