VIETNAM – HOW THE NEW DRAFT DECREE ON THE MANAGEMENT OF INTERNET SERVICES AND ONLINE INFORMATION AFFECTS FOREIGN INVESTORS

The Ministry of Information and Communications issued a Draft Decree amending and supplementing Decree No. 72/2013/ND-CP and Decree No. 27/2018/ND-CP regarding the management, provision and use of Internet services and online information (“the Draft”). The Draft will affect telecommunications businesses, publishers of video games and businesses that engage in producing and utilizing electronic newspapers, social networks, and sales websites.

Provisions in the Draft that may affect foreign investors

On Aggregate information:
1. Aggregate information is information retrieved from Vietnamese press sources and must relate to the following 08 sectors: science, technology, economy, culture, sports, entertainment, advertising and social security.

2. Organizations’ internal websites and specialized website providing aggregate information must obtain aggregate information website license. This measure aims to prevent internal websites from illegally posing as aggregate information websites in order to lure in viewers. Multinationals which usually have their own global websites for staff members across the world must take extra caution when handling information already published by the Vietnamese press.

On Re-releasing published contents:
1. Aggregate information websites, application distribution stores and social networks can only re-released content published by Vietnamese press sources at least 01 hour later than the time of publishing the source content. Re-released content must be removed immediately after the source content has been removed.

2. Agreggate information must state clearly the author’s name, the source’s name, the time of posting and place a link to the source content right below the re-released content. Aggregate information must not include readers’ comment of the re-released content (except for aggregate information websites constituted by press agencies).

3. Aggregate information must not concern other localities. This measure is somewhat impractical given the fact that in this era global events closely interwove with and have direct effects on people’s everyday life, this is especially true for international organizations, and thus viewers are increasingly looking for information about other countries. For example, the war in Yemen can drive up oil price in Vietnam or the gold price fluctuates with the hourly results of the US presidential election. Putting such measure could hinder aggregate information website’s business growth.

On Cross-border provision of public information:
Foreign entities engaging in this service must comply to Vietnam laws. Failure by investors in handling violating information can lead to the Ministry of Information and Communications proactively implementing technical interventions.

On Social networks:
1. Social networks are classified into social networks with high levels of interaction and ones with low level of interaction based on the monthly number of interaction or registered users. Social networks with high levels of interaction (at least 1 million interactions and/or 10,000 registered users per month) have to obtain a Social Network License issued by the Ministry of Information and Communications. Social networks with low levels of interaction need only notify the Ministry of Information and Communication on its operation.

2. Only licensed social networks have the right to charge fees and perform livestreaming services. The Ministry of Information and Communications will also embed a tool to monitor interaction levels for licensing-related purpose.

These measures, if come into effect, would seriously hamper the development of new social networks that rely on service fees in order to further expand their business. The possibility that such new social networks have to go through lengthy administrative procedures before they can carry out any fees collection and the possibility that entities have to amend their information technology system to accommodate the Ministry’s monitoring tool, would not only cause them financial burdens but also interfere with their freedom of doing business.

On Online games:
1. The Draft removes the requirement for online game providers to obtain a master license/certificate. A Dissemination License is now only required for each G1 game, while a Certificate for Game Dissemination Registration is required for each G2-4 games.

2. Providers must also show that they have (i) A head office with clear address and contact; (ii) Capacity to register and store users’ personal information including national identification information; (iii) Capacity to control players’ playtime, including restriction on children’s playtime.

The application of an uniform policy for all online games creates an imbalance in management as new games that need to prioritize attracting players or new developers short on funds must adhere to the same standards for established games/developers, thus creating difficulties in online games distribution.

3. Payment system of online games (if any) must be located in Vietnam and connected with Vietnamese payment service providers.

Within this era of ever-changing technological advances and the society’s increasing dependence on technology, the Draft Decree would play a very important role in managing this under-regulated sector. Duane Morris calls for further amendment on the Draft Decree to address the aforementioned issues.

Please do not hesitate to contact the author Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC, Member to the Supervisory Board of PetroVietnam Insurance JSC and the only foreign lawyer presenting in Vietnamese language to members of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAM.