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Vietnam calls out Google, YouTube for ad violations, toxic content

By Nguyen Ha   June 7, 2019 | 09:08 pm PT
Vietnam calls out Google, YouTube for ad violations, toxic content
Google has made efforts to block or take down nearly 8,000 toxic videos on YouTube under Vietnamese authorities' requests. Photo by Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Vietnamese authorities say Google has failed to control its ad content and that YouTube videos continue carrying illegal content.

The Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information under the Ministry of Information and Communications has publicized another series of violations committed by tech giant Google and its video-sharing subsidiary YouTube in Vietnam.

In a new report, the agency claims that small and medium-sized businesses, as well as individuals doing business on the Internet in Vietnam tend to buy ads directly from Google instead of through advertising service providers to cut down on intermediary costs. This contravenes a government decree issued in 2013.

The U.S. tech giant was also found to have displayed unauthorized, and in some cases, illegal content in advertisements next to general electronic information sites. This, the agency argued, shows that Google has failed to closely control the content and display position of its ads, allowing them to contain offensive, profane content or promote unauthorized products and services.

Furthermore, the broadcasting authority found that the previously highlighted issue of advertisements for reputed brands being shown on reactionary, anti-state YouTube videos continued to persist. According to the information ministry, there are still about 55,000 videos with "toxic, illegal" content on YouTube.

While Google has made efforts to block or take down nearly 8,000 toxic videos on YouTube under Vietnamese authorities' requests, the agency found that the video-sharing site's content management mechanism is still inadequate, making such efforts futile.

In early 2017, the information ministry had already discovered the display of advertisements for products and services from both domestic and foreign businesses, including some global brands, on YouTube videos with "toxic, reactionary content" that violate Vietnamese law through Google's advertising service.

As the money earned from these advertisements are shared with the creators of these toxic videos, Google has indirectly abetted anti-State activities, the agency stated.

"This is a serious violation of provisions on advertising, a worrying risk that affects the safety and reputation of brands and businesses. The recurrence of this situation shows that Google's remedies have failed to thoroughly resolve these violations, creating risks for brands when running advertisements on YouTube," a representative of the broadcasting authority said.

Additionally, Google's advertising agencies in Vietnam were also found to have committed multiple violations including failure to control their partners, enabling the showing of advertisements in toxic videos to continue.

They have also failed to report advertising activities relating to foreign businesses that provide cross-border services in Vietnam, which is a contravention of regulations.

To tackle these violations, the ministry is working with the State Bank of Vietnam on policies to block and manage cash flow and other payment activities related to toxic content on cross-border platforms, the agency said.

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