After Planning To Curb Social Media, Vietnam Now Wants To Ban Messaging Apps Like Viber, Whatsapp, Line, Zalo And WeChat

Vietnam's government is on the verge of banning chat apps like Viber, Whatsapp, Line, Zalo and WeChat after planning to regulate social media in the country

vietnam internet censorship

Governments don’t like social media and Vietnam definitely doesn’t like the common man getting powerful. Vietnam, the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula, isn’t a country that enables freedom of speech and is now planning to decide a policy in managing free internet-based telecom tools like Viber, Line and Whatsapp, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said on Friday, a move bound to increase concerns about Communist Party censorship.

vietnam internet censorship

Revealing more on the ban the prime minister has stated that the government would “build and promulgate the policies” in managing the free communication services on the internet. However, like always the government has not provided much detail on the regulations but the state media states that the present government might go further and ban all Over-The-Top (OTT) services.

The reason for the ban is that the free calling and messaging services are doing harm to the existing mobile operators in the country by eating up their revenues. Elaborating more on the business repercussions the network provides, representative of Viettel Telecom, one of the country’s biggest phone network providers, told the state media that:

“We will lose 40-50 percent of our revenue if all of our 40 million customers use Viber instead of traditional call and text.”

The news comes two weeks after the government had decided to clamp down social media in the country. In the first week of August, 2013 the government announced a new decree stipulating that blogs and social media profiles belonging to individuals and businesses should contain personal information only. The regulation that will come into existence by September has already been criticized by the US.

The new set of regulations which is part of an update to Vietnam’s ‘Management, Provision, Use of Internet Services and Information Content Online’ legislation states clearly that hence forth the citizens of the country should use social media for personal use and shouldn’t be quoting or discussing information from press organizations or government websites.

Social messaging apps are the next social network in a mobile first world which the government is well aware. The operator logic really holds no ground seeing the present set of developments happening in the country that has already arrested more than 40 activists this year in Vietnam.

Though at the same time the proliferation of the messaging apps has been a bit of problem with the SMS market literally closing down but at the same time the new apps like WeChat, LINE, Kakao Talk, WhatsApp are bringing more users online. Operators and messaging services partnering is the way forward and we have already witnessed WeChat doing the same. The possibilities are many and Anh-Minh Do from Tech In Asia does an excellent job in listing them.

Messaging apps and regulations

Messaging app – Viber has already faced problems in Saudi Arabia and right now it is banned in the country since it was hard for the country to monitor and deprives licensed telecom companies of revenue from international calls and texts. Blackberry had to face similar problems in India when the government was not able to monitor the BBM conversations and internet service email. However, Blackberry gave up and has set up a local server in the country which the government can monitor.

WeChat had recently run into similar sort of problem in India after the US Prism story broke out. The Indian government was investigating whether to ban the Chinese app from Tencent due to security concerns. However, there has been no update after the company spokesperson Hu Chunnan stated that,

The messaging platform WeChat, as a product that Tencent provides to its overseas users, has always complied with all relevant local laws and regulations.

It would be interesting to watch how things develop from here on when the government is trying to ban or regulate all mediums that are empowering the common man.

Image courtesy: Maria Ly