Social media advertising in Vietnam

In countries without fully operating democracies, the conflict between freedom of speech and IP rights can come to the fore.


In Vietnam, Decree 72 on social media bans information that it deems anti-government, damaging to national security or which destroys national unity.  A battle has been brewing for some time due to fast growing social media use. In Vietnam citizens are wary of criticizing the government but the first social media protest did erupt 2 years ago over protection of trees in the capital Hanoi. Two years on, after the decree, what would be considered illegal content is becoming more widespread.

So the government is seeking to prohibit businesses from supporting these sites through their advertising. They are specifically targeting YouTube, Facebook and other social media whom they say publish "toxic" anti-government information. First state-owned dairy Vinamilk and Vietnam Airlines withdrew adverts. Then the information and communication minister spoke with a number of foreign companies including the Unilever, Ford and Yamaha to request them to halt YouTube advertising. He alleged there are over 8,000 anti-government videos on YouTube, of which only 42 had been partially blocked by the site owner Google.

Computerized ad placement systems target ads to specific audiences so advertisers rarely know or control what content is shown with their ads. Google says it does review blocking requests from governments carefully. Industry groups like the Asia Internet Coalition have started that the open nature of the internet is where its value lies. Vietnam, without the vast resources China has, has been unable to build a firewall, to block content it doesn't like. Finally now social media's free speech basis is running into conflict with a government that seeks to control how its citizens and others convey their thoughts about the country and its government.