[EDITORIALS]For a Free and Responsible Internet

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[EDITORIALS]For a Free and Responsible Internet

A court has imposed a fine of 1 million won ($757) on an Internet service provider for taking no action on a request to delete a posting that allegedly defamed a person on its site.

The court said both the victim of the abuse and the Information Communications Ethics Committee demanded the Internet company to delete the post because it was in violation of the regulation banning "posting materials libelous to other Internet users or a third party," but the posting was not deleted for five or six months, causing "mental stress" to the victim, in the court's view.

An information society demands that people live in two different worlds - real and cyber. Living in such a society, it is important that people try to protect the dignity of others; recently, the number of cases of disparaging language on the Internet has decreased, but open insults and the uploading of false information on other persons are still around.

In this situation, it is a heavy burden for Internet companies to be forced to take responsibility for all the libelous postings. If an anxious Internet provider deletes a large number of postings for its own convenience, freedom of speech will be the victim in the long run,

As in the real world, the dignity of individuals and privacy should be protected in the virtual world. Because people can remain anonymous on the Internet, there are risks that irresponsible and excessive criticism can flow freely during the course of expressing opinions, legitimate or otherwise.

There is a need for complementary measures which can preserve freedom of speech and free exchange of information on the Internet and, at the same time, defend the honor of individuals and the service providers.

One possible measure is to require an inspection by the Information Communications Ethics Committee before a defamation lawsuit can be filed. Through such a measure, Internet service providers will have enough time to comply with the recommendations that follow from the results of such an inspection.

It is also possible to compel Internet services to inform their users that libel can lead to legal consequences and to post information on how to report abuse to the Committee.

Even children should be educated on Internet ethics as well as computer usage.

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