Fake news isn’t only a U.S. problem. Vietnam is calling on companies in the country to stop running advertisements on Facebook Inc. (FB), Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOG) YouTube and other social media networks until they get a handle on so-called fake news and what it called “toxic” anti-government news and information.
According to a report in Reuters, the local arms of big companies including Unilever, Ford and Yamaha all agreed during a meeting with the Information and Communication Minister Truong Minh Tuan to stop advertising on YouTube. According to Reuters, in February the communist country starting putting pressure on Google aimed at getting YouTube to remove content from dissidents based outside of Vietnam. The minister, unsatisfied with the progress, called on the companies to do more. Reuters cited the ministry as saying there were around 8,000 anti-government videos on YouTube, and only 42 were blocked but not removed altogether.
Blocking Anti-Government Information
"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, according to Reuters. "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."
Jeff Paine, managing director of The Asia Internet Coalition, which is a trade group that counts Facebook and YouTube as members, told Reuters that Vietnam and businesses in the country benefit from the internet, saying its “it is critical for the Vietnamese government to protect the open nature of the internet, and put in place the right conditions that incentivize investment and nurture innovation.” While it is not new for governments to rail against social media networks like Facebook or YouTube over content, calling on companies to stop advertising is pretty much unprecedented, Paine told Reuters.
This isn’t the first time Facebook was criticized for spreading fake news on its social network. Facebook was slammed during the run-up to the U.S. presidential election for propagating fake news in its news feed and favoring liberal content over more conservative news. Aiming to improve its reputation and fight back against fake news and alternative facts, Facebook has taken steps including tagging stories as "disputed." In January, Facebook announced it is launching the Journalism Project, an initiative aimed to create a healthier "news ecosystem" on its platform. (See more: Facebook Adds Dispute Tag to Flag 'Fake News'.)