Letter From the Editor: Was Viet Fact Check Mentioned on “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”?

(Tiếng Việt)

This claim is TRUE! 

But first, I, as the editor of Viet Fact Check, want to give you some information about Viet Fact Check.

Last September, when a group of Vietnamese-Americans started Viet Fact Check, our motive was simple: There was a mountain of misinformation about Covid-19 and the 2020 Election, but there were not enough resources about health and politics in Vietnamese to help guide our parents and elders. There were YouTubers out there claiming that wearing a mask was unnecessary or that Joe Biden was a communist (wearing a mask is still necessary and Joe Biden is NOT a communist). 

We felt like we needed to do something to help our community. So we volunteered our time to create Viet Fact Check.

Since then, Viet Fact Check has been written about in American media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, NBC, and BuzzFeed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave us money to create well-researched, medically accurate information about the Covid-19 vaccine. We partnered with the University of Washington on a study about misinformation. 

The attention to our work, and the validation of its importance, has been overwhelming and more than we dreamt of when we started this website last year.

Then this past summer, something spectacular happened. 

Over the summer, Viet Fact Check received an email from a producer for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” a news show on HBO with 4 million viewers per episode. They wanted to devote a whole show to misinformation in non-English communities. Would we tell them about what we have noticed about this trend in the Vietnamese community? 

We told them what we knew. 

Then on Oct. 10, John Oliver himself spoke about misinformation in non-English communities, and how it has led to problems such as people being hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine or believing that wearing a mask is killing people. One figure he mentioned was Nguỵ Vũ, also known as King Radio, who Oliver called the “Vietnamese Alex Jones.” 

But it was not a compliment. Oliver said that, “While Alex Jones has been removed from YouTube for spreading misinformation, King Radio is still going strong on the platform.” In other words, Alex Jones is a big spreader of English misinformation, and King Radio is a big spreader of Vietnamese misinformation. Oliver also noted that Nguỵ Vũ’s voice “sounds like bones going through a wood chipper.” 

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” with Vietnamese subtitles by Viet Fact Check.

Oliver also talked about Viet Fact Check, saying: “A key problem right now is that many communities don’t have the same fact-checking resources that English-speaking ones do … If someone sends you a clip from King Radio, Vietnamese-language fact-checking sources are thin on the ground. There are some: There’s Viet Fact Check, a volunteer-led project, and there’s The Interpreter, which works to translate news articles from reputable outlets into Vietnamese.”

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” with Vietnamese subtitles by Viet Fact Check.

Then, in the days after “Last Week Tonight” aired its segment, YouTube banned King Radio from its platform. Nguỵ Vũ frequently said statements such as mask wearing is unnecessary and selling medicine he claimed would cure Covid-19: This was in clear violation of YouTube’s rules banning Covid-19 misinformation. But because it was Vietnamese, those violations were allowed to continue. 

Until “Last Week Tonight” made it clear that social media platforms like YouTube were responsible for the harmful information hosted on those services. It forced YouTube to act. And they removed King Radio, saying his account “violated YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”

As Oliver made clear, the Vietnamese community is not the only community harmed by misinformation. The same is true of the Spanish community, the Indian community, and many others. I’m sure they all have their version of King Radio poisoning their family members. It should not take a national news show like “Last Week Tonight” for YouTube, Facebook, or any other social media platforms to act. And King Radio is still alive on Facebook. 

Like Oliver said, “There needs to be public pressure on platforms to do something about all forms of misinformation whether they are in English or not, because a whole lot depends on this.”

So what can you do? 

Oliver said this about Viet Fact Check: “these are small organizations, and the people running them are outmatched and understandably, fucking exhausted. So groups like these badly need resources to better match the challenges that they are facing.”

Unlike King Radio, Viet Fact Check does not have pills or creams to sell to you (and if any “news source” tries to sell you creams and pills, they are not a trusted source for news). We continue to be a small volunteer team. You can donate money to us so we can pay our writers and translators for their work. You can volunteer your time and join our team.

You can share our work with your family members, and talk to them about how to tell if a news source is trustworthy or deceptive (remember: just because a stranger on the Internet says it, that doesn’t mean it’s true, ask to see proof of credentials). 

Tell your friends about us (especially if they work in media and are interested in writing about misinformation). And you can contact Viet Fact Check when you see pieces of misinformation that you think we should debunk. 

You are our eyes and ears, and without you, Viet Fact Check would not exist and we would not have grown so large, so fast.

I recently said at a Viet Fact Check meeting that we’re in the business of changing hearts and minds, one person at a time. Just like how a house is built brick by brick, if we all work together, do our part, no matter how small it may seem, we will build a structure strong enough to protect our bà con. 

With gratitude,

Viet Fact Check managing editor Diep Tran

P.S. One of Viet Fact Check’s translators also translated the graphic below into Vietnamese for “Last Week Tonight.” We encourage you to share it with your family members.