[EDITORIALS]Real names for a civil WebReplies to postings on Internet bulletin boards have been seriously polluted with bad language lately. Once Web postings become a target of attack by Internet users, they can become a horrible social problem. In the anonymous space of the Internet, people can fall prey to character assassination amid an array of slander and verbal abuse. Truth is smashed while rumors and assumptions lead to the social burial of individuals in an instant. Although personal photos and even pages of private information circulate in cyberspace, the reality is that it is difficult to regulate such acts or get compensation for the damage to the person’s privacy.
In this regard, it seems rather late in the day for Ministry of Information and Communication to decide to adopt a “restrictive real-name system” for large Internet portal sites. Under the revised law, the ministry will require users of those sites to reveal their real identities when posting information. A mediation system aimed at quickly resolving online disputes including defamation cases will also be introduced.
The social impact of major portal sites has reached a significant level. Their power currently overwhelms the power of some newspapers and broadcasters. Some portals that are listed on the nation’s secondary Kosdaq market are valued at several trillion won. Not a small number of them benefit from the replies of Web users because growth in the number of visitors directly leads to increased revenue, thus the service providers deliberately leave users “reply space” to participate in online dialogues.
However, it is now time for portal sites to take social responsibility commensurate with their revenues. If they have offered a playground for their members, Web sites are also liable for trouble that takes place on their digital turf.
Some problematic replies should be immediately removed by the site operators even without receiving consent from their authors. Most of all, Web users need to change the way they think. Social damage caused by groundless Internet replies has become excessively immense. This goes beyond the basic right of freedom of expression. It should be considered as socially deviant. Web users are not supposed to spread rumors in cyberspace without a process of fact checking. Restrictive adoption of a real-name system is just the beginning. The government will have to expand the realm of the system’s application. The Internet should no longer be left as a space riddled with unlawfulness and chaos.