Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — In May, Trần Thiên An from the southern province of Bạc Liêu was sentenced to eight years in prison for raping a 12-year-old he met via the internet.
Living in HCM City, the child, N, met An on social media in October 2016. At the end of the month, An asked N to visit his house in Bạc Liêu Province, where the two had sexual intercourse.
An’s crime is one of many cases of wrongdoing and fraud facilitated by social media. With 70 per cent of the population having access to the internet and 53 million people on Facebook, Việt Nam faces many challenges in ensuring people, especially children, are safe on the internet.
In 2013, social media users were enraged by a young mother in central Đà Nẵng City, who took advantage of her son’s congenital heart defect to fraudulently raise money.
The mother, Nguyễn Trần Hoài Thắm, posted about her son’s condition on her Facebook account and asked for donations from social media users for his surgery. It was reported that only a quarter of the VNĐ200 million (US$8,860) that Thắm received was spent on the surgery. She used the remaining amount to buy expensive phones and tablets for herself.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Hà Nội last month, Minister of Information and Communications Trương Minh Tuấn said that the rise of false information that elicits hatred and violence and hurts the nation’s unity has rendered the negative effects of social media undeniable. But ultimately, the actions and claims of wrongdoers are more important than the mediums by which they are delivered, he said.
“Social media should be considered a tool, a road used by both travellers and thieves,” he said. “Their attitude is the heart of all problems.”
False, misleading information mostly appears on foreign social media platforms, Minister Tuấn added. Because social media can seem distant from concrete reality, social media users think they have the freedom to say anything without taking responsibility for it, he said.
Vietnamese social media users are also threatened by cyber attacks. They are among those with the lowest awareness of cyber risks in the world, said Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam.
“International surveys showed that while 60 per cent of people in other countries are aware of the risks of being attacked by malicious software, only 11 per cent of Vietnamese are,” he said.
Dr Đinh Thị Thuý Hằng, director of the Press Training Centre under the Việt Nam Journalists Association, said that it is necessary to establish regulations on social media use and teach them to children.
“For example, ‘Do not use social media to spread gossip and cruel rumours about each other’,” she said at a conference on communication crises in social media in Hà Nội last month. “Schools and families should make stronger efforts to educate young social media users on these matters."
To manage information on social media more effectively, the information ministry recently requested foreign social media companies comply with Việt Nam’s regulations and remove false information that harms the country.
In particular, it has requested the video sharing website Youtube remove about 5,000 videos with inappropriate content, said Information Minister Trương Minh Tuấn.
The ministry will revise its legal documents to ensure stricter measures against cyber fraudulence, he added. It will focus on promoting Vietnamese social media platforms in the coming time, he said. — VNS