Illustration. Image: www.lirc.udn.vn
nearly 20 years of the Internet connection, Vietnam is one of the
countries in Asia with highest number of Internet users. Along with the
constant development of technology, the provision of and use of
information on the Internet have increasingly diversified in both
platforms and contents, not only bringing about many benefits to people,
but also posing many challenges to the whole society. Therefore, it is
an urgent demand to effectively manage information provision on the
Internet in the current period.
The status quo of information provision on the Internet in Vietnam today
In recent years, the development of information services on the Internet has brought about undeniable benefits to the world people. People becomes closer together, can easily access the huge database online updated every day, every hour from around the world. Information on the Internet is extremely rich and varied. The Internet enhances information exchanges and communication among people, contributes to the development of knowledge economy, and increases democracy, transparency and openness in society. This is the general development trend of the science and technology era.
According to new data published by the Internet World Stats, by the end of June 2015, Vietnam boasted 45.5 million Internet users, reaching 48% of the national population. Along with that, Internet-based information provision including electronic media and social media (including web pages, websites, social networks, personal web pages) have also grown very rapidly.
In recent years, along with the strong development of technology, electronic media in Vietnam has been gradually renovated to adapt to the development trend of modern communication, meeting increasing information needs of audience. Under the leadership of the Party and the management of the State, along with the traditional forms of media, electronic media has made an important contribution to the overall achievement of the country's renewal process. With 114 electronic newspapers and magazines and more than 250 electronic websites of newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, electronic media has become the shock force, promptly and comprehensively providing information on political, and socio-economic life of the country and the world and acting as the voice of the Party, the State, socio-political organizations and the people's forum.
They have proactively, positively and creatively contributed to the dissemination, protection and development of Marxism-Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thought, brought the Party viewpoints and lines and the State law into life, fought against acts of law violation of organizations and individuals and combated social evils, refuted erroneous and hostile information, and points of view, promoted their role and position in information provision and propaganda, and led ideological orientation, and public opinions.
Besides, they have also positively and effectively communicated the Party and State’s lines, policies, and solutions to develop economy and society, thus created trust and consensus in society. On that basis, levels, sectors and people of all strata have made efforts to overcome difficulties and challenges and contributed to making important socio-economic achievements. Along with that, they have also manifested more clearly the oversight role and social criticism, helping the Party, State and government at all levels in time build, adjust and complement many decisions, implement effectively appropriate socio-economic, enhance the fighting spirit against negative actions, corruption and wastefulness, reject erroneous and hostile allegations, and contribute to maintaining political stability, and socio sustainable development.
In reality, the system of electronic newspapers of Vietnam has taken advantage of technology, confirming its increasingly important position in the revolutionary press system, in both provision of information and communication as well as meeting the demands for information and entertainment. Given its special advantage in external information, electronic media is an important and effective external information provider as it can be easily accessed by the Vietnamese community and international friends worldwide through the Internet. It can also be a sharp weapon in the fight against “peaceful evolution” in the ideological front, exposing distortion and accusation of external hostile forces and domestic political opportunists.
Besides providing information, the electronic media including more than 1,600 websites and 132 lisenced social media, not to mention dozens of foreign social networks with a large number of users, such as Facebook and Twitter and thousands of personal web pages, creates a diversified communication environment, and improves exchange of information among Internet users. According to statistics of comScore (one of the world's leading companies on measurement and evaluation of online marketing solutions’s effectiveness), in Feruary 2016, eight out of ten websites with highest traffic from Vietnam are social media. Thus, we can see, social media is increasingly attracting a large number of Internet users, especially in recent years, users tend to search for information on social media.
One of the reasons why social media is rapidly developing is information on social media is quick, rich, and interesting. Social media is increasingly attracting users because of its highly interactive, quick update from multiple sources. Users are very eager to make their own comments, remarks, assessment and exchange on different fields, and ongoing issues of the society. Information on social networks are rapidly spreading, and disseminating and easily causing social impacts.
To a certain extent, social media is also one of the effectively channels disseminating the Party line and policies, State laws, supporting the media, expanding press agency outreach, and helping information of the mainstream media reach farther, and faster.
Besides these benefits, online information also poses potential risks, and run counter to legitimate interests of society. As an open environment, the Internet has contained negative and harmful information of different characters, such as vulgar words, pornography, violence incitation, terrorism, slanders, besmearing, deceit, and threat to national security and social order and safety.
Over the past period, though Vietnam’s electronic media has thrived in both quantity and quality, pooling new synergy and new face for the media in general, but there remain many limitations, and shortcomings. Some newspapers have not yet fulfilled their functions in the field of ideology and culture, but continued to run after trend to incite sensation against habits and customs, discredit people which adversely affects the reputation of organizations. Misinformation, lack of political sensitivity, and copyright violations have increased. Technology-oriented development has not been given due attention to by several media organizations.
Social media is also a communication channel that causes information disturbance in society. Information on these pages mostly collects sensational stories from other newspapers and communication channels and sometimes edits with different titles as compared with the contents. Many information sites have frequently violated copyright, causing media organizations’ resentment while readers may have misunderstood that they are electronic newspapers. Information on personal pages and social networks is often trivial, unselected, difficult to identify sources and lack of verification. Even when the event is true, it may be viewed, accessed and interpreted by individual subjectivity, hence it can be easily distorted. That is not to mention, if taken advantage of for the purpose of fraud, violations of law, contrary to the legitimate interests of the community, social and national security threat, the consequence is extremely grave, especially when users are mostly young people, lacking strong acumen, and not mature enough to receive information on the Internet.
There are many causes to the limitations and shortcomings listed above. In terms of technology, the Internet is the open environment, allowing users to freely provide, find and use information. So, depending on motivation, purposes and awareness of individual users and organizations that information posted by them on the Internet is positive or negative or even runs counter to the legitimate interests of social community. Today, besides the positive impacts in many aspects which promote social development, negative impacts of wrong and harmful information on the Internet are increasing and complicated. Meanwhile, many party committees, administrations, unions at all levels from the central to local levels, as well as many officials and people have not fully and deeply realized the complex nature, the negative and positive sides of the Internet, not paid due attention to communication, education and advocacy of Internet user organizations and individuals to abide by law, differentiate between right and wrong and proactively fight, criticize, reject misinformation, and fabrication on the Internet.
Meanwhile, the impact of the globalization of information, the explosion of media platforms on the Internet have led to tremendous changes in social life, and communication, the work of Internet-based information management has met with difficulties and fallen short of technology development. The enemy forces have been thoroughly taking advantage of the media to carry out “peaceful evolution” schemes on the ideological and cultural field, causing misinformation and confusion among society in order to sabotage the Party and State of Vietnam. In addition, there are limitations in management and planning. Mechanisms, policies, legal framework have been incomplete and not caught up with development. Leaders of a number of press agencies have not strictly observed information discipline. Many have not paid due attention to management and have not been consistent in handling violating media organization under their managment.
Improving the efficiency of State management in the field of information on the Internet
Currently, Vietnam is accelerating industrialization and modernization, and proactive and positive international integration amid a volatile world, full of unpredictable uncertainties. Negative elements of international integration, particularly in the field of information and communication on the Internet, have strong impacts on social life. Feverishly deploying “peaceful evolution” scheme, hostile forces have taken full advantage of the Internet in order to generate misinformation, causing panic in the society. Degradation of political ideology, ethics and lifestyle of a large part of officials and Party members as well as uncontrollable bureaucracy, corruption and waste have eroded people's trust, affecting the leadership of the Party, threatening the existence of the socialist regime. Therefore, more than ever, electronic media should continue to maintain the leading role, provide orientation and information in time to reject misinformation, and malicious and reactionary allegation on the Internet. At the same time, importance should be attached to communication, education and mobilization of Internet-users to comply with the law, social and cultural norms, ethics, differentiation between the right and the wrong, true and false, proactively fight and criticize misinformation, fabrication, false accusation while enhancing management of information on the Internet. To do so, in the time to come, attention must be given to implementing following key measures:
Raise awareness of party committees, party organizations, administrations, organizations and associations in the political system on the technology and nature of the Internet environment, the role and importance of electronic media and other forms of social media on the Internet in society.
Promote communication and education of people of all strata, especially the young generation, pupils and students in order to enhance their “resistance” before negative information and effectively and practically use the Internet.
Further enhance the role, awareness and responsibility of electronic media in ideology orientation, maintain the role of information providers, and use positive mainstream information to lead public opinion, especially before important, complex and sensitive events and issues.
Second, mechanisms and policies
The authorities should continue to review, amend and supplement legal documents, mechanisms and policies, facilitate healthy development of electronic media and other forms of social media on the Internet coupled with strict management. There should be research and forecasts on the development trend of the communication platforms and methods on the Internet in the future for proactive solutions, orientation and appropriate governance in line with the actual development of Vietnam and the development trend of the world. In particular, mechanisms and policies to strengthen the role and responsibility of line organizations which electronic media belongs to must be developed and heads of electronic media must be severely dealt with for their errors. At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen the organization apparatus and raise the effectiveness of State management over the press and electronic media, overcome overlapping and ambiguity in delegation and assignment among regulatory agencies, between the Central and local levels to ensure effective governance of information platforms on the Internet in the country.
Third, on law enforcement capacity
Strictly handle cases of using the Internet for bad purposes, and violation of law, morality and social norms, impose sanctions on those individuals who provide erroneous information on the world wide network. Focus on reviewing and considering withdrawal of licenses of electronic media, social networks, electronic information pages which do not meet operation standards and regularly commit errors. At the same time, strengthen the specialized inspection force, improve the capacity of the authorities in charge of electronic media and the information on the Internet at the central and local levels, invest in modern technical equipment and create favorable working conditions to ensure effective state management. Invest in building modern information technology infrastructure to meet people’s increasing information and culture needs. Give preferential support to Vietnamese internet services providers, contributing to building and developing good information, and prevent bad information on the Internet.
Fourth, human resource development
Focus on improving the quality and effectiveness of the Party and State’s leadership, direction and management of information on the Internet, highlight the responsibility of line agencies and leaders of electronic media, websites and social networks to coordinate for the construction and development of a positive and useful information environment and repulsion of erroneous and harmful information. Review, develop plan on electronic media, arrange organization, increase the quantity and improve the quality, define clearly social responsibility, civic duty and professional ethics for electronic reporters and journalists. Improve the quality of training and retraining of personnel in information technology and electronic media. Strengthen management staff, focus on fostering political and professional levels for cadres in charge of electronic media governance as well as those staff who are responsible for information security.
Fifth, on science and technology
Competent authorities at all levels should accelerate the application of innovative scientific and technology, build infrastructure of modern information technology to better meet the needs of information and culture. Promulgate supportive and incentive policies for Vietnamese internet information service providers, like social networks, search engines, and content of interest to users. Build strategic information resources, domain and data management, build regulations on coordination between regulatory agencies with internet service providers to deploy solutions on network management, safety and security. Expand international cooperation, study world development trends, increase experience exchange on internet governance, and coordinate to handle wrong-doings in transnational service provision in line with international law and practices.
This article was published on Communist Review No 884 (June 2016)