Nowadays, business and lending activities are very ebullient. However, these activities bring the risk of arising debts. Sometimes, the debtor delays and evades debt payment, making the debt collectors pressing. Being unable to collect the debt, the debt collector “releases anger” by defaming and smearing the debtor on social networks and assumes that these acts are not illegal.
Currently, how does Vietnamese law regulate the handling of acts of defaming, smearing, and reviling individuals and organizations on social networks? To answer the above question, we would like to offer legal advice so that individuals and enterprises having debts that need to be collected have appropriate debt collection measures.
1. Penalties for administrative violations
- Pursuant to Point a, Clause 1, Article 101 of Decree 15/2020/ND-CP stipulating penalties for administrative violations in the fields of post, telecommunications, radio frequencies, information technology, and electronic transactions dated February 3rd 2020 (“Decree 15”), individuals and organizations will be fined from 10,000,000 VND to 20,000,000 VND for taking advantage of social networks to provide, share fake information, untruthful information; distort, slander, revile the prestige of agencies, organizations, honor and human dignity of individuals.
Individuals or organizations that conduct acts will be applied the remedial measure of forcing the removal of false or misleading information or information that violates the law due to the commission of a violation.
Accordingly, information on social networks with content that is considered humiliation or slander includes: (i) seriously offending the honor, prestige, and human dignity of others people; or (ii) fabricated, untrue information that infringes upon the honor, prestige, human dignity or causes damage to the lawful rights and interests of other agencies, organizations or individuals.
Thus, defaming and smearing the debtor on social networks may be considered as distorting, slandering, reviling the prestige of agencies, organizations, honor, and human dignity of individuals and will be sanctioned according to the provisions of Point a, Clause 1, Article 101 of Decree 15.
- Under Point e, Clause 3, Article 102 of Decree 15, individuals and organizations will be fined from 10,000,000 VND to 20,000,000 VND for acts of collecting, processing, and using the information of other organizations, individuals without consent or for the wrong purpose as prescribed by law. In addition, individuals or organizations that conduct acts may be applied the remedial measure of forcing the return of illegal profits obtained from committing acts of violation or forcing the revocation of numbers and telecommunications numbers store due to the commission of violations, or forcing the revocation of domain due to violations.
Thus, apart from the cases of collecting, processing, and using the information of other organizations or individuals with the consent of that organization or individual or according to the provisions of law, the act of collecting, processing, and using the information of the debtor for the purpose of defaming, smearing or reviling will be sanctioned according to the provisions of Point e, Clause 3, Article 102 of Decree 15.
2. Criminal prosecution
Depending on the nature and seriousness of the violation, individuals and organizations that defame, smear, revile the honor and human dignity of other individuals and organizations on social networks may be prosecuted for penal liability for the Crime of Humiliating others people in Article 155 of the Criminal Code 2015 (amended and supplemented in 2017) and the Crime of Slander in Article 156 of the Criminal Code 2015 (amended and supplemented in 2017), detailed as follows:
- Individuals and organizations may be convicted of the Crime of Humiliating other people if they conduct acts of “seriously offending the human dignity and honor of others people”.
This behavior has not distinguished the space of performance between a social network and reality; an individual or organization only conduct acts of a serious offense to the human dignity and honor of others, which may constitute the crime of humiliating others and be penalized to a warning, a fine of between 10,000,000 VND and 30,000,000 VND or non-custodial reform for up to 03 years, imprisonment from 03 months to 05 years, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
The law does not define exactly what is “seriously offending the human dignity and honor of others”. However, an act seriously offending the human dignity and honor of others on a social network can be understood that an organization or individual uploads images, recordings, videos, articles, links, websites containing contents and words that curse or revile other organizations and individuals.
- In addition, individuals and organizations can be convicted of the Crime of Slander if they fabricate or spread things that are known to be untrue in order to seriously offend the dignity and honor or cause damage to rights, legitimate interests of others; or fabricate other people to commit crimes and denounce them to the competent authorities.
Thus, in this case, if an organization or individual spreads or fabricates untruthful things on social networks in order to slander, smear, or revile the honor and human dignity of other organizations or individuals, it may constitute the crime of slander and shall be penalized a fine of between 10,000,000 VND and 50,000,000 VND, non-custodial reform for up to 02 years or imprisonment from 03 months to 07 years, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
The above are the legal consequences that individuals and organizations can be settled when they defame, smear the debtor on social networks. Apart from acts of defaming, smearing, TNTP has summarized illegal acts that enterprises and individuals must not do when collecting debts. Please refer to the article “06 things you can not do when collecting overdue debts“.
We hope this article was useful to you.
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TNTP and Associates International Law Firm
Lawyer Nguyen Thanh Ha