Vietnam Introduces ‘Fake News’ Penalties for COVID-19 Misinformation

A new proclamation took effect in Vietnam lately introducing fines for the propagation of ‘fake news’ or rumours on social media, amid the quick spread of comment online about the novel coronavirus in the Southeast Asian country.

The first COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Vietnam this January, and the ministry of Health has reported 267 infections so far with no fatalities. The numbers are well below those seen in some other Asian countries.

Already, the local authorities have fined hundreds of people for publishing what they described as “fake news” about the coronavirus, using the term generalised by US President Donald Trump, based on already existing legal provisions. But the new proclamation, drafted in February, succeeds one from 2013 which does not particularly cover ‘fake news’, new guidelines explains the matter.

Vietnam Introduces ‘Fake News’ Penalties for COVID-19 Misinformation

According to the decree, a fine equivalent of $426-$853, will be inflicted on people who use social media to propagate false, untruthful, or slanderous information.

The fresh rules were not particularly drafted to deal with coronavirus social media comment and stretch far beyond that topic, raising concern among human rights groups already intensified by a cybersecurity law that has been in effect for almost one year.

Fines can now be inflicted on anyone sharing posts that are banned from circulation in Vietnam. As part of the crackdown on misinformation on the COVID-19, authorities have started a public poster campaign bearing the slogan “Fake news, real consequences”.

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Hundreds of fines have already been levied, while three celebrities were also forced by officials to offer public apologies.

Last month, a female in the northern-central province of Ha Tinh was penalized for a Facebook post within which she inaccurately said the coronavirus had proliferated to her local community.

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