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Irked by anti-government material, Vietnam tells advertisers to boycott social media

17 March 2017

Vietnam yesterday asked all companies doing business in the country to stop YouTube, Facebook and all social-media advertising until they found a way to block the publication of "toxic" anti-government information.

The companies, including Unilever, Ford and Yamaha agreed and suspended YouTube advertising.

Critics of the government say, the development comes after socialist Vietnam started building pressure on advertisers in a bid to get Google and other companies to remove content from foreign-based dissidents.

However, according to information and communication minister Truong Minh Tuan, the response had not been satisfactory. The ministry said there were 8,000 anti-government videos on YouTube, but the government had blocked only 42 and had not removed them completely, the ministry said.

"Today we call on all Vietnamese firms that are advertising not to abet them to take advertising money from firms to use against the Vietnamese government," Tuan told companies at a meeting in Hanoi.

"We also call on all internet users to raise their voice to Google and Facebook to prevent toxic, fake content violating Vietnamese law in the online environment."

YouTube said it thoroughly reviewed government requests to block content it believed was illegal and restricting it where appropriate. Facebook offered no immediate response.

Meanwhile, millions of pounds of advertising had been pulled from the video platform YouTube after major brands and government departments found that their advertisements were appearing next to content promoting extremism.

An investigation by The Times newspaper revealed that advertisements for the cabinet office, Honda and Argos were appearing alongside videos for racists, white supremacists and rape apologists.

Following the disclosure of the findings, many advertisers chose to withdraw their advertisements from the Google platform until action was taken to resolve the issue.

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