Very recently, in an unprecedented move, China has issued regulations targeting at online platforms' algorithm recommendations. The regulations first surfaced last year in the draft form, and will come into effect on 1 March 2022. Accordingly, online platform operators must, among many things, inform users about the "basic principles, purpose and main operation mechanism" of the algorithm recommendation service and provide users with options that are not specific to their personal characteristics, or provide users with convenient options to turn off the algorithm recommendation service.

While not completely following China's example above, Vietnam has touched on some issues concerning algorithms. The Draft Law on Protection of Consumers' Rights ("LPCR"), released on 10 January 2022 for public comments/consultations, envisages a regime to regulate "online intermediary platforms" ("Platforms") and "major/big intermediary platforms" ("Big Platforms").

Under the draft LPCR, Platforms are considered information systems that are set up and operated to provide cyber environments allowing different persons to trade with consumers, and Big Platforms are Platforms having a significant impact on a large enough number of consumers. While the Vietnamese Government will decide such a number, it is expected that tech giants will be considered Big Platforms and subject to the LPCR (once officially adopted).

The draft LPCR sets out many new obligations and responsibilities for these entities. Notably, in addition to Platforms' new obligations, Big Platforms will also bear the following specific obligations:

  • Create storage of ads that use algorithms and target specific groups of consumers;
  • Periodically evaluate their censorship activities and use of algorithm and ads systems; and
  • Periodically evaluate their performance of handling fake accounts, using artificial intelligence and other automatic or semi-automatic activities.

These new obligations would need to be re-worded with a more readable sense as it triggers how they should be enforced as a matter of practice. From the sound of it, looks like the lawmakers wish to regulate tech giants and they may draw further inspiration from China's latest rules.

The deadline for interested parties to submit comments on the draft LPCR will fall on 10 March 2022. The draft LPCR will then be revised/updated based on comments from stakeholders and various authorities, before being submitted to the Government for legal appraisal. It is set to be passed by the National Assembly in May 2023, and take effect on 1 January 2024.