Commentary: Big Brother concerns in Ho Chi Minh City as Vietnam launches social listening programme

Commentary: Big Brother concerns in Ho Chi Minh City as Vietnam launches social listening programme


Social listening is no new in Vietnam. Companies have relied on this service for years from both domestic and international IT companies.

Despite having low scores year after year, some provinces in North Vietnam have also implemented a citizens ‘ comments app to collect data from cultural listening software. However, they failed to make use of the data collected between 2016 and 2022 in Quang Ninh to improve the performance of regional government agencies for healthcare, construction management, and education.

Is this listening initiative akin to a state job that squanders public funds like Quang Ninh’s, or is it about becoming Big Brother? What is clear now is that Vietnam will depend mainly on international platforms like Facebook, X ( formerly known as Twitter ), Instagram, and YouTube to gather the data necessary for social hearing.

Between 2018 and 2023, most of the eight” Made in Vietnam” social media apps like as Zingme, Lotus, Hahalolo, Gapo, and Vietnamta had failed to get much users globally to succeed, except Zalo- a regional software with over 60 million users in 2023.

With over 75 million Vietnamese users in Vietnam and several millions of Vietnamese living abroad, no Vietnamese-language social media platform can rival global giants like Facebook. Even Vietnamese media made it known that there will continue to be” a market dominated by Big Tech” for a long time.

First and foremost, Vietnam’s excessive reliance on foreign social media platforms requires the government to work within the Big Tech companies ‘ data protection practices in order to carry out its intended social listening program.

Vietnam’s relationship with Big Tech companies has never been plain sailing. According to Vietnam’s cybersecurity law, Facebook and Google were required to remove any online links and video content that were deemed to be threats to national security within 24 hours.

Data released by the Ministry of Information and Communications in mid- 2022 showed that in the first six months of that year, thousands of posts were removed by Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok.

However, these takedowns are only a small sourdough by the global platforms to defend their business interests in Vietnam. The key question is whether Big Tech would comply with the government’s demands for access to customer data.

A government decree authorized the Ministry of Public Security, which regulates the police, to order Big Tech to” store Vietnamese users ‘ personal data in Vietnam,” with the condition that it be done “within 12 months.”

The Vietnamese press did not make any such announcements in 2023. In the upcoming years, the government will continue to fight with the Big Tech platforms over control of the internet and social media.