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Another update from South Korea on free speech

May 12, 2009 _ 12:39 / Digital Nation Team / comments (0)

We've written in the past about Google's decision to bypass the Republic of Korea's online real name registration system. The regulation requires Web sites with over 100,000 visitors to verify users' identities through a national ID card number when they upload content. Google circumvented the system by allowing Koreans to designate their country location as outside Korea. According to the Hankyoreh, Google is not backing down:

With the Korean government left having no particular cards to play, Google shows signs it will continue to deal with the Korean YouTube issue at the level of human rights. Nicole Wong, a Google legal advisor who handles questions concerning freedom of expression at the company, discussed the problems facing YouTube in South Korea at a conference hosted by the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley on Monday. She said because Google views YouTube as a socially and politically important platform, it considered facilitating Internet anonymity as fundamental in the exercise of freedom of expression. She said the company has conveyed to the South Korean government its opposition to the real-name verification system. In response to a question of whether the South Korean government could demand that Google do to YouTube's main site what it did to YouTube Korea's site or be blocked, she hinted that Google had in mind the possibility of pulling out of South Korea on its own accord.

As a result of the real-name regulation, disenchanted Korean Internet users are increasingly turning to foreign sites for their online needs. The Korean government says the registration system is necessary to combat "cyber-bullying."

In a recent letter to President Lee Myung-bak, the Committee to Protect Journalists cited the real-name system in a list of concerns about increasing government pressure on the Korea's media.

-Jeff

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posted February 2, 2010

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