Vietnam steps up child protection with new internet law

By Hoang Phuong   May 16, 2017 | 05:28 pm GMT+7
Vietnam steps up child protection with new internet law
Children play at a zoo in Hanoi. Photo by Linh Pham

The online sharing of a child's information or images must be approved by the child or their legal guardians.

A new government decision is seeking to provide stronger child protection on the internet by requiring users to obtain permission from children or their parents to share their personal information and images.

The new regulation, which will take effect on July 1, requires all internet users to gain permission from children, or their parents/guardians if they are under seven years old, before sharing their private information online.

The information includes the child’s name, age, images, distinguishing features and health conditions, as well as information about family members, assets, phone numbers, home and school addresses and relationships.

Vietnamese laws define a child as someone under 16 years old.

Businesses that offer online services have been asked to provide tools for young users to keep their personal information private and warn them when they are about to access fake or malicious content.

Online game providers will have to run time management tools to prevent children from turning into gaming “addicts”, it said.

Children aged from seven years old and the legal guardians of younger children will have the right to demand authorities and online service providers to remove any private information for their protection.

The decision also requires police to take action if a child’s personal information is violated online.

Figures from Microsoft Technology Policy Group showed that of the 1.8 billion images uploaded online every day, 270,000 are images of child sex abuse. According to ECPAT, a NGO that seeks to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, 38 percent of the abusers in these cases are the children’s parents, followed by 26 percent who are neighbors and family friends.

Around 49 million people in Vietnam, or more than half of the country's population, are online. The country is among the world's biggest consumers of digital content.

In Vietnam, more than 8,200 cases of child abuse came to light between 2011 and 2015, including 5,300 cases of sexual abuse, according to official figures released a year ago.

In most cases the perpetrators were people with authority over the children, including teachers, school security guards and relatives.