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Courts get tougher on online slander

June 22,2005
With Internet-based harassment becoming more common, courts have been handing down sterner sentences for online threats and defamations of character.
In Seoul Southern District Court yesterday, a 23-year-old man, identified by his family name, Yun, was sentenced to eight months in jail for slandering and threatening his ex-girlfriend. Mr. Yun posted a message on her new boyfriend’s Web page that read, “Don’t live like that. I have slept with her many times.” He also sent her about 100 text messages, in some cases threatening to kill her.
Under current law, defamation by phone or the Internet can be punished by up to five years’ imprisonment or fines of up to 10 million won ($9,900).
“Normally, offline libel cases result in light punishments, such as suspended sentences or fines,” said one court official. “But cyber defamation tends to cause serious damage to a victim’s reputation. Since such cases have dramatically increased recently, punishments have gotten heavier.”
In Seoul Eastern District Court in February, a 20-year-old college student was given a 10-month suspended sentence, two years’ probation and 160 hours of community service for setting up a Web site to slander a schoolmate. In a telephone slander case, a 25-year-old college student who called a classmate’s friends to spread rumors that she was promiscuous was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment.
A help center for victims of online harassment said it received 2,285 calls for help in 2004, compared to 278 in 2001. About 70 to 80 percent of the calls were about online defamation.
“Posting false information on Internet message boards and personal Web pages can have heavy consequences, as can copying and pasting those messages,” said lawyer Shim Jeong-gu.


by Kim Hyeon-gyeong


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