Korea Celeb Suicides Prompt Law, YouTube Sidesteps

Dennis Faas's picture

YouTube has blocked user uploads and comments in South Korea: the result of a new law which bars anonymous posting. However, there is an easy way around the ban, which makes the rules virtually worthless and could even help YouTube's business.

Since April 1st, 2009, Korea's Cyber Defamation Law means any firm with more than 100,000 different daily users must verify their identity and receive an identification number. They must then post their name and number when uploading video clips or posting comments.

Google Follows Letter, but not Spirit, of Law

YouTube's owner Google has complied with Korea's law, but made it clear it does not agree with the principles.

Google says, "We have a bias in favor of people's right to free expression in everything we do. We are driven by a belief that more information generally means more choice, more freedom, and ultimately more power for the individual. We believe that it is important for free expression that people have the right to remain anonymous, if they choose."

Writing on its Korean blog, the firm explained that it has only disabled comments and uploads for users whose profile is set to show their country as South Korea. It explicitly points out that "You may still upload videos and comments without proving your identity by choosing a non-Korean country setting from the top of any YouTube page." (Source: cnet.com)

Could Boost Business

Of course, Google outright suggesting that users find an easy way around the new law may not be simply a civil rights protest. Tom Foremski of ZDNet points out that Google currently has just a five per cent share of the South Korean Internet video market, but that this move may allow it to gain users from larger Korean sites which can't find such an easy workaround. (Source: zdnet.com)

Korean Celebrity Suicides

The Korean government brought in the law after a spate of celebrity suicides allegedly provoked in part by harsh, anonymous online comments.  It looks as if Google is neither willing to admit any part in such acts, nor will it pursue a strategy to help prevent them.

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