[EDITORIALS]Rules apply to the Internet tooThe Korean Internet News Association announced that it would not acknowledge the National Election Commission’s committee’s assessment of online election coverage. Since last month, the committee has called for discipline in 16 cases of coverage by Internet news providers that breached election laws.
For the association to ignore the committee is to declare that it has abandoned its role as an alternative media form and to continue its unfair coverage of the elections. These online news providers have offered unverified news as fact and reported dubious poll results for candidates. They are polluting the election atmosphere and misleading voters.
Those in their 20s and 30s make up almost half of the voters for next week’s general election. The Internet’s influence on these younger voters is quite strong because they have relatively less contact with conventional media than those of other age groups.
Internet media have many subscribers because so many can log in anonymously. Slander or unverified information about candidates and groundless support for certain parties could cloud voters’ judgment.
The Internet news providers have a duty to inform their readers of the decisions of the election committee and the disciplinary measures recommended. They should not try to avoid the law by taking advantage of the Internet. Even if they are providing news on the Internet, they should correct their erroneous reports immediately as other media do.
As problematic as the Internet news providers are the cases of illegal campaigning disguised as legitimate cybercampaigns. This year’s general elections prohibit the mobilization of supporter groups or any distribution of gifts or money to voters. A considerable number of candidates are relying heavily on their personal Web sites and cell phone services for their public relations activities.
However, this has led to many cases of slandering online. There have also been cases of text messages sent to mobile phones apparently sent by candidates that detail allegations of misdeeds by rivals.
The National Election Commission should not let up its regulation of illegal campaign activities through the Internet between candidates and voters.