Vietnam to probe TikTok over “toxic” content

(Reuters) – Vietnam will probe TikTok’s operations in the country from May, as “toxic” content on the short-video platform “poses a threat to the country’s youth, culture and tradition”, the Information Ministry said on Thursday.

Moderating content on the popular Chinese-owned application that carries bite-sized videos was “far more difficult” than on other platforms, ministry representative Le Quang Tu Do said at a news conference, without providing details.

“We will need tougher measures to combat that content, removal only is not enough,” Do said. He did not elaborate on the measures.

The app, owned by ByteDance, has nearly 50 million users in Vietnam aged 18 and above, the government has said, citing data from research company DataReportal.

It removed 1.7 million videos on the Vietnamese government’s request in the fourth quarter of last year, as they were deemed to be in violation of government policies, according to company data.

Asked if TikTok would be banned in the Southeast Asian country, Do said those who did not comply with local rules would not be welcome.

“TikTok, Facebook and YouTube are all cross-border social media with international standards. But when operating in Vietnam, the platform needs to abide by local regulations on both content and tax obligations,” Do said in a statement earlier this week, adding that TikTok had recently allowed “toxic, offensive, false and superstitious” content on its platform.

TikTok is the only platform being probed because it is the only one with local offices, the ministry said.

The company said in February it was told by the Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information that a government delegation would visit its Vietnam offices in the second quarter.

“This is an interdisciplinary inspection activity planned by the government and in line with Vietnam law for companies operating in Vietnam, not only TikTok,” TikTok Vietnam said in an email.

In a statement to Reuters on Thursday, TikTok Vietnam also said it had updated its guidelines, expected to take effect from April 21, to be more transparent about its rules and how it enforces them.

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