Legal News
FIEs displeased with government demand to license internal websites

Vietnam Investment Review

FIEs suppose the regulation as an invasion of their policies and assets

The new regulations of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) may affect the policies and assets of private businesses and foreign-invested enterprises in Vietnam.

The MIC is reviewing a proposal to add the requirement that internal websites and specialised websites posting aggregated information have to obtain licenses of establishing aggregated information websites following the Article 23 4.b of the draft amendment of Decree No.72/2013/ND-CP outlining the management, provision, and the use of internet service and online information.

The reason behind the adjustment is to prevent the categorisation of internal websites as aggregated information websites that are commonly mistaken for online newspapers. Some internal websites have taken advantages of this to lure in advertisements without the supervision of local authorities.

Many foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) expressed dissatisfaction with the draft as soon as it was published. A representative of a foreign-invested company, who wishes to be unnamed, told VIR that no other nation in the world obligates businesses to license internal websites that are used exclusively by staff members.

Multinational companies all have their own global internal websites to assure that their staff members across the world receive the same information from the parent company. Therefore, licensing or creating a specific website for the Vietnamese market will negatively impact local employees.

“Extending registration requirements to companies' internal websites is not in line with international practices,” said the representative. “We recommend striking off the clause from the decree.”

Regarding the issue, Dinh Thi Hoang Nhung, managing director of HNLAW & PARTNER Co., Ltd told VIR that by definition (Article 20.3 of Decree 72), internal websites are those used to post information about functions, tasks, powers, organisation structure, services, products, business lines, and other information serving business’ operation. Article 23.4b is only applicable to internal websites that post aggregated information, which means not all internal websites will have to be registered.

However, internal websites often run a news column where they upload articles regarding the particular company or sector from online newspapers. Most of these stories have been written to order (making them marketing material and not news articles).

To generate more advertising revenue, illegal aggerated information websites have published many articles focusing on the weakness of companies in an attempt to force them to run advertisements while also uploading fake news, according to the Ministry of Information and Communications. In late March, the (an aggegrated website) was fined for VND5 million ($220) for operating without a license.

Last year, the MIC checked and withdrew licenses of hundreds of aggregated information websites as well as issued administrative fines on operators of private websites that ran as aggregated information websites.

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