Commentary: Big Brother worried in Ho Chi Minh City as Vietnam launches social listening program

Can Vietnam get the data it wants?

Social listening is not new in Vietnam. Foreign and domestic IT companies have been providing this service to businesses for years.

Several provinces in northern Vietnam have even implemented the use of citizen feedback to collect data from social listening software, but they failed to use the data collected in Quang Ninh between 2016 and 2022. , construction management and education, despite receiving low scores year after year.

Is it Big Brother or just another state scheme to waste public money like the one in Quang Ninh? It is now clear that Vietnam will mostly rely on global platforms such as Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram and YouTube to collect the data needed for social listening.

Between 2018 and 2023, most of the eight “Made in Vietnam” social media apps such as Zingme, Lotus, Hahalolo, Gapo, and Vietnamta failed to attract enough users across the country, with the exception of Zalo, a local app with more than 60 million users. In 2023.

In short, no domestic social media in Vietnamese can beat the global giants like Facebook, which has more than 75 million users in Vietnam and several million overseas Vietnamese in the world. Even the Vietnamese media acknowledged that the country would be a „big tech-dominated market”.

Vietnam's heavy reliance on foreign social media platforms means the government must work within the data protection policies of big tech companies to implement its intended social listening program.

Vietnam's relationship with Big Tech has never been an empty ride. Enacted in 2018, Vietnam's Internet Security Law requires Facebook and Google to remove within 24 hours any online links and video content deemed a threat to national security.

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Data released by the Ministry of Information and Communications in mid-2022 showed that in the first six months of that year, thousands of posts were removed by Facebook, YouTube and TikTok.

However, such downgrades are only a small concession by global platforms to protect their business interests in Vietnam. The key issue is whether Big Tech will accede to the government's demands for access to customer data.

In August 2022, a government decree empowered the Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the police, to issue a decision forcing Big Tech to „store users' personal data in Vietnam”, but with the condition that such a decision be carried out. with „within 12 months”.

No such decision was reported by the Vietnamese press in 2023. The government's fight over control of the internet and social media by big tech platforms will continue in the coming years.

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