Vietnamese subscribers of social media may soon be required by law to verify their identity before logging in. According to Reuters, the rule will apply to both national and foreign-run platforms, including popular sites like Facebook and YouTube and cover individuals and organizations.
Some providers require digital ID verification in Vietnam, but it could be all of them by the end of the year as part of the proposed Telecommunications Law Amendment. Its purported targets are scammers, disinformation campaigns and criminal activity that can be conducted anonymously across borders via social media. Law enforcement will have the ability to track and monitor users and block unverified accounts.
In an authoritarian country that ranks poorly on freedom of expression, critics worry that the law gives the government too much control over people’s online activity. The BBC quotes Human Rights Watch as saying that the mandatory identity verification system gives Vietnam’s government undue leverage over transnational corporations, and “is likely lead to violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and privacy.”
Human rights groups have already raised concerns about the autocratic nation’s recent crackdown on fake news, Decree 53, saying it is a smokescreen for tighter government control. Vietnam’s leaders have implemented biometrics in passports and at airports. They also want foreign firms to store their Vietnamese customers’ data locally, and to have a physical presence in the country by October.
As technology like AI and deepfakes present new risks, and the machinations of fraud and disinformation become more complex, regulators across the globe are working to find ways to stay ahead of the changes, through policy and regulation. But the wave of new laws has in turn driven pushback from those who fear the measures will be too easily abused, especially in nations that already employ invasive surveillance practices.
Social media restrictions are being introduced in several other countries, but mostly to keep underage users off of the platforms.