VNG-owned Vietnamese messaging app Zalo runs afoul of regulations

Vietnamese messaging app Zalo, which is owned by internet major VNG Corporation, has run afoul of the country’s social media licensing regulations.

Zalo, which has garnered around 100 million users in Vietnam and overseas markets, recently launched its social media network. However, the company is only licensed to operate as an over-the-top (OTT) service.

After initially asking the company to take down its Zalo.vn and Zalo.me domains, local watchdogs asked Zalo to apply for a new social media licence. According to local media reports, government officials confirmed at a meeting last week that Zalo has filed for a permit.

Recent reports also called into question whether Zalo’s licensing troubles were linked to its parent company VNG being backed by China’s Tencent Holdings. The Ministry of Information and Communication is said to have clarified at the aforementioned meeting that there was no participation from Chinese investors in the country’s media space.

Vietnam has been maintaining tight control over what gets shared on social media. Most recently, the local government asked businesses not to advertise on YouTube channels and web pages that carry ‘toxic information’, which can include everything from anti-government propaganda and fake news to content seen as inciting violence.

The country has also encouraged local businesses to develop home-grown social media apps. The latest to join the fray is Gapo, which mimics Facebook and aims to get 50 million users by the end of 2021.

Viettel, the country’s biggest telco, operates video-sharing platform Mocha, while media group VCCorp is working on an AI-enabled social network called VivaVietnam. It is understood that Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup has invested in VivaVietnam.