Asia's fight against fake news -Vietnam:

Reports fabricated for views, attention

Poll: 62% of Web users have seen or become victims of hate speech, 47% have suffered from fake news

HANOI • Social media has become an indispensable part of daily life all over the world, accounting for a rising proportion of human interactions. Vietnam has over 35 million social network users, making up about 37 per cent of its population.

As with anything else, the fusion of real life and cyberspace has its pros and cons, and one of the biggest cons is the space created for more people to spread rumours, defame others and put spurious stuff online.

The most common and petty motivation is to attract viewers through sensational fake news, or to turn attention onto oneself. A survey of 1,000 people by the Vietnam Programme for Internet and Society found that 61.7 per cent of Internet users have either seen or become victims of hate speech, while 46.6 per cent have suffered directly from fake news or misinformation.

An instance of fake news involved a girl, Pham Thi Mui, from Hanoi, who made up a story posted on her Facebook page about an airplane accident. It included photographs of an "air crash" at Noi Bai International Airport. Mui later told police that she did so to receive more "views" and draw attention to her online cosmetic business.

A screen shot of the Facebook page of Pham Thi Mui, who made up a story about a plane accident and included photos of an "air crash" at Noi Bai International Airport. Mui later told police that she did so to receive more "views" and draw attention to
Idemitsu Q8's petrol station in Hanoi. A fake news item this month said the Hanoi Petroleum Association had sent an official letter to the city's people's committee, proposing that city officials and employees be banned from fuelling up at the petrol station. PHOTO: VIET NAM NEWS/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Another instance was a news item posted on the phapluat.news website on Oct 11, saying the Hanoi Petroleum Association had sent an official letter to the city's people's committee, proposing that city officials and employees be banned from fuelling up at the newly established Idemitsu Q8 petrol station.

The reason was that Vietnamese people should be proud of Vietnamese goods and give priority to using them, the letter said, adding that using services of foreign-owned businesses would weaken local firms.

Idemitsu Q8's petrol station in Hanoi. A fake news item this month said the Hanoi Petroleum Association had sent an official letter to the city's people's committee, proposing that city officials and employees be banned from fuelling up at the petrol
Idemitsu Q8's petrol station in Hanoi. A fake news item this month said the Hanoi Petroleum Association had sent an official letter to the city's people's committee, proposing that city officials and employees be banned from fuelling up at the petrol station. PHOTO: VIET NAM NEWS/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The news item appeared just a week after Idemitsu Q8, a joint venture between Japan's Idemitsu and Kuwait Petroleum International, opened its first service station in Hanoi. As soon as information about the letter appeared on social media, it stirred up public opinion, with most netizens disagreeing with the association's action.

Vietnam Petroleum Association chairman Phan The Rue denied the news, saying no such proposal had been made.

The Hanoi police declared after an investigation that that was fake news. It had been assumed that the website belonged to the Hanoi Department of Justice, but its domain name and IP address were in the United States.

The fake news would have affected the prestige of both the Vietnam Petroleum Association and the Hanoi Department of Justice.

Speaking at a question-and-answer session as part of the National Assembly Standing Committee's ninth session in mid-April, the Minister for Information and Communications admitted that because of limited awareness, some members of the public were incited by false information, including that created by forces hostile to the nation.

VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'Reports fabricated for views, attention'. Print Edition | Subscribe