Planning a lackadaisical, tranquil night at home and watching a few TikTok videos over weekend would be so much fun. From there, I am made aware that there has been back and forth blare between an influential CEO and a number of Vietnamese celebrities on social media in the past few weeks. Netizens have been developing video montage of stories that bring many live issues that become a concern regarding code of conduct on social media. This prompted me to write about how Vietnam will react to the code of conduct of artists, with a comparison of the Guidelines for Interactive Marketing Communication & Social Media ("Singapore Guideline").

The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has recently initiated the drafting of a Code of Conduct for Artists (Draft COC) in an attempt to preserve and promote Vietnamese traditional values and raise artists’ sense of responsibility and ethical standards. The Draft COC is not legally binding in its nature, but rather establishes a general guideline for artists when behaving in their professional activities, activities on the press, media, social media, and other public activities. The Draft COC consists of three (3) chapters, with the main substance regarding artists’ code of conduct is covered in Chapter 2.

This article discusses a general observation of the Draft COC and draw a comparison with Singapore’s Social Media Guidelines.

1.         Overview of the Draft COC

Chapter 1 introduces the objective and scope of application of the Draft COC. Specifically, the Draft COC applies to artists working in the public sector and those who are members of political – social – professional, social – professional, and other social organizations. Notably, freelance artists, who belong to neither of the above-mentioned groups, are also subject to this Draft COC. The Draft COC, in chapter 2, sets standards of ethical conduct that are encouraged to be adopted by artists.

1.1. Code of conduct towards colleagues, audiences, and the public

The Draft COC incentivizes artists to foster a harmonious and cooperative relationship with colleagues in both professional and personal lives, and to refrain from conducts that trigger conflicts, attacks, alienation, unfair competition, and prejudice other artists’ prestige and interest. Besides, artists are expected to accord audiences and the public proper respect and strive for the creation of the arts, taking into account public opinions. Artists should not take advantage of their popularity for personal gains.

1.2. Code of conduct in professional activities, social activities, activities on the press, media, and social media

Under the Draft COC, artists should incessantly enhance professional qualifications. In light of the continuing controversy surrounding celebrities’ philanthropic activities, the Draft COC motivates artists to be responsible, transparent, and proactive in community service utilizing their prestige. As public figures, artists are also expected to be honest in and accountable for any of their conducts in the public sphere by, for instance, not promoting false, misleading, or offensive information.

2.         Comparison of the Draft COC and the Guidelines for Interactive Marketing Communication & Social Media (Singapore Guideline)

Although the Singapore Guideline and the Draft COC share many similarities, they are different in nature and purpose. More specifically, although both documents do not have a compulsory binding effect, the Singapore Guideline is to be considered as a regulatory guideline. Thus, in serious cases, the breach of the guideline would result in the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore publishing the investigation outcome of the case, or the Consumers Association of Singapore taking legal actions against such breaches (under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act). The Draft COC, on the other hand, merely serves as a public moral guideline, a breach of which would only result in reputation harm to the violator at most. 

Secondly, as stated in Article 1 (Scope), the Singapore Guideline applies to "advertising and marketing communication that use social media to promote goods and services or to influence consumer behavior". In contrast, the Draft COC concerns the "behaviors of artists in professional activities, activities on the press, media, social media, and other public activities". Indeed, artists in general often actively engage in advertising and marketing activities on social media. Yet, promotions on such media do not exclusively employ artists, but also other key opinion leaders and other subjects. Likewise, the scope of the Draft COC applies to other artists' professional activities such as public performance, or public statements to be made on the press. The Singapore Guideline and the Draft COC, thus, overlap in the scope but do not share the same purpose.

The overlap between the two documents can be observed with respect to the provision on the interaction between the artists/endorsers/marketers to the public. The Singapore Guideline emphasizes advertisements transparency by setting both technical and substantive requirements for the disclosures of information in marketing communication. Similarly, the Draft COC expects artists to be faithful and refrain from taking advantage of their reputation to acquire personal benefits, as well as not to engage in advertising activities that spread false or misleading information regarding the products' function. The two instruments meet in their ultimate goal in ensuring the consumers' need to be fully informed and ultimately, their right to autonomy.

3.         Remark 

As a legally non-binding instrument with several obscure principles, the Draft COC remains questionable as to its practical efficiency in shaping artists’ behaviors so that their influence is not unreasonably amplified at the cost of public interests.

(Prepared with the assistance of my colleagues: Tan-Dung Truong & Tuan-Nghia Nguyen)