HO CHI MINH CITY: Influencer marketing and social media are already big in Southeast Asia so the use of live video streaming is a logical next step, but in Vietnam there are concerns that this approach is sidestepping rules on both advertising and tax.

According to Tuoi Tre News, local celebrities and key opinion leaders are being paid to promote a variety of products, including alcohol and dietary supplements that are not permitted on more traditional media.

And it singled out Facebook Live as a particular channel which celebrities are using to interact with fans at evenings and weekends and to talk about those products they are being paid to promote, often via scripts which repeatedly name the brands and where they can be purchased.

Fans are also encouraged to watch to the end of the livestream – so increasing brand engagement – with the promise of ‘gift-giving’ sessions on celebrities’ Facebook pages.

But Nguyen Huy Quang, head of the legislative department of the Ministry of Health, advised consumers not to heed Facebook ads for healthcare products.

“These products could be snake oil and it is against the law to promote healthcare products without approval from the health ministry,” he said.

Industry insiders have meanwhile reported that local celebrities can earn more than one hundred million dong (US$4,400) a month from such advertising and there is a suggestion that some of this may be paid in cash and bypass the tax authorities.

This practice is more likely to be confined to smaller firms using less well-known individuals, however, while larger businesses are thought to be declaring payments and paying the relevant tax.

The scale of any potential tax avoidance was not disclosed, but the notion that Facebook could be, albeit unwittingly, facilitating such activities sits uneasily with its own history using offshore tax havens to limit taxable profits.

In a different context, former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, was critical of the social network’s impact on society more generally.

“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told a US audience.

Sourced from Tuoi Tre News, The Verge, The Telegraph; additional content by WARC staff