Cyber violence is a serious problem in South Korea. Nearly 200,000 cases were reported in 2007, which is 50% increased than in 2006. Several celebrities committed suicides because they were too depressed about the serious criticism on the Internet. For example, Choi, a 39-year-old actress, was a national sweetheart in South Korea. Bloggers criticized her about her personal life, loan scandals and divorce. She suffered from depression and ended her life in 2008. The government in South Korea has enforced the real-name verification law this year to prevent irresponsible messages. From April 1st, 2009, websites which have 100,000 unique visitors per day have to verify users’ identify before they post any content on the websites.
South Korea tried to promote the real-name verification in 2003 for the first time. It was postponed because of the huge opposition from the public. Then in 2005, an event brought the issue back to the society. A female’s photo was posted online because that she didn’t clean her dog’s excretion on the subway and her attitude was very rude. Then people started to search her personal information and disclose it online. Some people visited her personal blog to criticize her and recognized her on the street according to the online photos. The female’s privacy was damaged and the police couldn’t do anything because they can’t follow the violators without their real names. The incident showed the influence of cyber attacks. Not only the celebrities, everyone could be a victim easily. The government reconsidered to enforce the real-name system. Survey showed that there are 80% people agree with the policy on Yahoo Korea and 65% on the Naver.com.
The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) began to test the real-name verification system on two major websites in 2007, Naver and Daum. On April 1st, 2009, the law was expanded into websites which have 100,000 unique visitors per day. YouTube refused to follow the law and disable Korean users to upload videos and leave comments. The announcement on the official blog claims that, “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.”
Without the freedom of speech on the Internet, the online world won’t be so active. The Internet helps people to create their niche group and develop a diverse faces of their lives. The real-name verification system might be a policy to turn the society back to a uniform one. Besides, the system is only applied with major websites which reach a certain numbers of visitors. So what about the minor websites? People still are able to spread negative messages on a variety of websites. Are these messages could not be defined as cyber violence?
In addition to using real-name verification system, I believe that there are other methods to regulate inappropriate content. For example, inappropriate content could be reported by users or regulated by administrators. Educating web users to respect the privacy and defamation is also important. People has the rights to speak, they also have to respect others to keep the freedom.
South Korea is the first country to deal with the critical issue. The effectiveness of real-name verification will be researched and observed continuously. We still need more discussion about how governments can keep the freedom of speech and avoid more slanderous messages in the digital world.