The Internet factorThe National Election Commission, Korea’s election watchdog, yesterday banned individually produced media content, or so-called user-created content, on presidential hopefuls.
Three presidential aspirants of the opposition Grand National Party were asked to delete user-created-content published on portal and other media sites.
The contents feature Park Geun-hye playing the piano, Lee Myong-bak doing a comedy stint and Sohn Hak-kyu leading calisthenics. All are aimed at increasing the candidate’s popularity.
Regarding the measure by the commission, aides to the respective candidates asked the authority to take a cautious approach, saying too heavy-handed of an approach may restrict voluntary supporters’ creativity.
However, because user-created content, or UCC, can become a means for malicious propaganda, it requires more-than-adequate deliberation.
UCC refers to writing, photos and video clips created and uploaded by Internet users. Of course the content is mainly for personal amusement.
However, experts agree that the newly emerging media will have an immense impact on the presidential election this year. That means its influence will be much bigger than the power the Internet wielded in the 2002 election. Leaving the content uncontrolled could distort the election results.
The restriction measure does not intend to forbid the UCC from being used for public relations activities. Because UCC is developing as part of the new Internet culture, unconditional constraint is not appropriate. But a different standard should be applied to the presidential election. Candidates who are falling behind in popularity could be tempted to hurt competitors by fabricating UCC. What if that happens one or two days prior to the election day?
In the worse-case scenario, there may not be time to counter false propaganda before the election takes place. Because an election campaign is a battle in which the winner takes all, it will be fierce.
The country, as well as the candidates, should be thoroughly prepared to deal with this type of abuse.
No regulation can control the uploading of video clips on the Internet. However, the bad effects should be minimized. As a countermeasure, the election commission or the prosecution could be given the right to immediately ban connecting to UCC sites that have problems near election day.