Open letter calling on Facebook to “unfriend” harmful social networks in Vietnam

0
283
FB Stop AK47
Viet Tan (EN)

On Facebook’s 19th birthday, over 60 human rights NGOs and prominent Vietnamese Facebookers called on Mark Zuckerberg to “unfriend” harmful social networks in Vietnam.

The open letter urges Meta to delete the millions of fake Facebook accounts in Vietnam, shut down networks that engage in coordinated mass reporting, and provide an avenue for Vietnamese activists, journalists and stakeholders to appeal content takedowns.

 * * *

Open letter calling on Facebook to “unfriend” harmful social networks in Vietnam

Mark Zuckerberg

Meta Platforms Inc

1 Hacker Way

Menlo Park, CA 94025

February 1, 2023

Dear Mark,

February 4th marks nearly two decades since Facebook was founded in 2004. On this 19th birthday, we urge you to recommit to giving people the power to build community and bringing the world closer together.

Facebook has revolutionized how we consume, create, and share information. But it has also increasingly become a tool to suppress the very freedom of expression it was meant to promote, as political actors have manipulated the platform to curtail dissent and harass opponents.

Vietnam has been a prime example:

  • Sophisticated networks of seemingly authentic Facebook accounts mass report activist accounts to take down content and use bots to proliferate false information.

In July and December 2021, Reuters reported that Facebook removed networks of accounts that targeted Vietnamese activists critical of the country’s government.1 One particular group was called “E47,” which has military and non-military members coordinating ways to mass report and spam accounts. This group is connected to Force 47, the Vietnamese military’s cyber unit that is charged with defending party ideology online since 2016.

Despite Facebook’s apparent removal of the E47 group, Reuters still found tens of thousands of users connected to other known Force 47 groups. Additionally, attacks continue to persist. In October 2022, dozens of activists and prominent Facebook pages were targeted by bots spamming messages relentlessly for several weeks.2 Since a key Facebook metric is focused on highlighting posts that get a large number of comments, such spamming tactics allow the content of these attacks to spread further, misinform, and harm online social interactions.3

  • Harmful networks in Vietnam reveal a concern regarding account authenticity — an issue directly affecting investors, advertisers, and human rights defenders.4 

Internal Facebook documents publicized by whistleblower Frances Haugen mention the existence of potentially 15 million fake accounts in Vietnam. Not only do these fake accounts skew the accuracy of the supposed 70 million Facebook users in Vietnam, but they also contribute to the mass reporting of authentic accounts.

Furthermore, the farming of clicks to cultivate a real audience base for Facebook pages and groups creates inauthentic social interactions. This tactic entails hiring people to click on links to increase the virality of a post, or constantly publishing content that misleads and exaggerates to attract actual users. Vietnam is apparently at the center of a booming fake account industry that’s scaled up by mass automation. The motive may be for monetary or political gains, but the result is the spread of misinformation.5

Facebook previously announced how authentic users can coordinate social harm through the case of the Querdenken movement in Germany, and the team immediately removed the network’s accounts, pages, and groups.6

In the year ahead, we call on you to fully address ongoing coordinated social harm on the Facebook platform, especially in Vietnam. Specifically, we urge you to:

1) Delete the millions of reportedly fake Facebook accounts in Vietnam and consider policy changes to disincentivize flagrant “click-bait” behavior.

2) Shut down networks that engage in coordinated mass reporting and other social harms.

3) Provide an avenue for Vietnamese activists, journalists and stakeholders to appeal content takedowns and to work directly with Facebook staff when targeted by coordinated social harm campaigns.

As you expand into tomorrow’s metaverse, we hope that you will commit to ensuring safe and authentic interactions on your platforms today.

Sincerely,

Brotherhood for Democracy (Hội Anh Em Dân Chủ) | fb.com/hoianhemdanchu

Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association | fb.com/CambodianJournalistsAlliance

Catholic Youth (Thanh Niên Công Giáo) | fb.com/thanhnienconggiao

Destination Justice | fb.com/DestinationJustice

Free Journalists Club of Vietnam (Câu Lạc Bộ Nhà Báo Tự Do) | fb.com/caulacbonhabaotudo

Horizontal

#MilkTeaAlliance Calendar Team

#MilkTeaAlliance Friends of Myanmar

Myanmar Internet Project

New Horizon Media (Chân Trời Mới Media) | fb.com/chantroimoimedia

PEN America | fb.com/PENamerica

Reporters Without Borders | fb.com/Reporterssansfrontieres

Safeguard Defenders

Saigon Broadcasting Television Network | fb.com/SBTNOfficial

V5TV Tin Tức Úc Việt | fb.com/profile.php?id=100063708034647

Viet Tan | fb.com/viettan

Activists & Citizen Journalists:

Anh Chi | fb.com/profile.php?id=100026717114516

Bui Hue | fb.com/jerry.bui.79069

Philip Bui | fb.com/bui.v.phu

Son Bui | fb.com/TheSonBui

Dao Ba Ke | fb.com/profile.php?id=100004537337205

Dang Huu Nam | fb.com/lm.anton.danghuunam

Dang Thi Hue | fb.com/danghuevt

Doan Thi Thuy Duong | fb.com/profile.php?id=100004905254586

Do Le Na | fb.com/huong.tudinh.967

Do Thi Thu | fb.com/profile.php?id=100008236984260

Suzie Dong Xuyen | fb.com/profile.php?id=100011455206810

Ho Duc Hoa | fb.com/profile.php?id=100081058157991

Hoang Tu Duy | fb.com/hoangtuduy71

Huynh Ngoc Chenh | fb.com/ho.lytien.1

Huynh Van Ba | fb.com/profile.php?id=100003673032911

Paulus Le Son | fb.com/son.vanle85

Le Thanh Tung | fb.com/anthonylethanhtung

Le Thi Thap | fb.com/comuoi.hole.78

Manh Kim | fb.com/nguyen.manhkim

Nguyen Dinh Ha | fb.com/senator.nguyen

JB Nguyen Huu Vinh | fb.com/jbnguyenhuuvinh

Nguyen Manh Hung | fb.com/tamlinh.tran.188

Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet | fb.com/tuyet.ohlala

Nguyen Thi Chau | fb.com/chau.nguyenthi.7771

Nguyen Thi Kim Chi | fb.com/chi.k.nguyen.94

Nguyen Thi Hue | fb.com/nguyen.hue.1610

Trang Nguyen | fb.com/tienlen.01.02.1990

Nguyen Van Hai | fb.com/dieucayclbnbtdvietnam

Nguyen Van Khanh | fb.com/profile.php?id=100001766666529

Dominic Pham | fb.com/dominic.pham.12

Moc Lan Pham | fb.com/lanpt.aus

Pham Minh Hoang | fb.com/phamminh.hoang.351

Than Pham | fb.com/maclam.pham

Pham Thanh Tam | fb.com/profile.php?id=100086496352356

Phong Van Phan | fb.com/luongdan.ly

Michel Tran Duc | fb.com/michel.tranduc

Tran Thi Thu Thuy | fb.com/tranthithuthuy83

Tran Minh Nhat | fb.com/minhnhat.paultran

Trinh Thi Nhung | fb.com/medadanntoc.duma

Trinh Thi Thao | fb.com/trinhthithao86

Truc Ho | fb.com/nhacsitrucho

Benny Truong | fb.com/profile.php?id=100005569474118

Tuan Khanh | fb.com/khanhtuanng

Tuong Thang | fb.com/tuong.thang

Elodie Vialle | fb.com/elodie.vialle

Vo Hong Ly | fb.com/hongly.vo.5059

Vo An Don | fb.com/bauquay

Vu Duc Khanh | fb.com/freedom.king.902266

Vu Thach | fb.com/thach.vu.980

References

1. James Pearson, “How Vietnam’s ‘influencer’ army wages information warfare on Facebook,” Reuters, July 8, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/how-vietnams-influencer-army-wages-information-warfare-facebook-2021-07-09; James Pearson, “Facebook says it removes accounts which targeted Vietnamese activists,” Reuters, December 1, 2021, ​​https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-says-it-removes-accounts-which-targeted-vietnamese-activists-2021-12-01

2. “Harmful network targets Vietnamese civil society: Facebook must take action,” Viet Tan, October 28, 2022, https://viettan.org/en/harmful-network-targets-vietnamese-civil-society-facebook-must-take-action

3. Elizabeth Dwoskin, Tory Newmyer, and Shibani Mahtani, “The case against Mark Zuckerberg: Insiders say Facebook’s CEO chose growth over safety,” Washington Post, October 25, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/10/25/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-whistleblower

4. Dai Do, Duyen Bui, Michel Tran Duc, “#StopVNtrolls: Combatting Force 47 and Cyber Censorship,” Viet Tan, February 2023, https://viettan.org/en/stopvntrolls

5. Elise Thomas, “Case Study 1: Farming Facebook,” ISD, Conspiracy Clickbait series, January 19, 2022, https://www.isdglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Conspiracy-Clickbait-Study-1.pdf

6. Nathaniel Gleicher, “Removing New Types of Harmful Networks,” Meta, September 16, 2021, https://about.fb.com/news/2021/09/removing-new-types-of-harmful-networks

687240cookie-checkOpen letter calling on Facebook to “unfriend” harmful social networks in Vietnam