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Government seeks to bar Web aliases

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June 30,2005
Government officials said yesterday that they have started looking at ways to keep Internet users from hiding behind aliases when posting inflammatory messages on Web sites. “As much as they enjoy the freedom of expression, people should take responsibility [for what they say,]” said Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan during a cable TV program yesterday. “It is fine to be anonymous in searching for information that doesn’t involve other people, but it is a problem when they write their opinion or enflame others without identifying themselves. Mr. Lee did not say how the government would try to get Internet users to reveal themselves, but declared that “writing on the Internet requires responsibility because we don’t know where the writing will be copied and pasted.” Recent online attacks by Korea’s Internet users have drawn the government’s attention. After a picture of a woman who did not clean up after her dog in a subway car was uploaded on to the Internet, angry Web users worked together to identify the woman and bombard her school’s Internet site with hate e-mail. The Ministry of Information and Communication said it will meet with officials and related experts today to figure out how to force Internet users to reveal their true identities when posting on bulletin boards, such as by entering their national identification number. In response, civic groups criticized the government’s plan. “It is true that the curses and incendiary messages have reached a serious level, but it cannot be solved only by using real names online,” said Park Won-seok from the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. “The system will damage freedom of expression, which is protected by the Constitution.” Lee In-ho, associate professor of law at Chung-Ang University, said that Internet users would pause before they write if their identities were known but that would have more negative consequences than positive ones. “The Internet has been used as a place where the minority can express their opinions against the majority,” he said. “If people have to write under their real names, they would neither offer sound social criticism nor uncover unfair treatment in society.” by Lee Weon-ho, Park Sung-ha


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