[LETTERS to the editor]Rampant Internet slander

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[LETTERS to the editor]Rampant Internet slander

It happened one day some three years ago when I met the president of the Korean Language Research Circle, a friend of mine, to discuss with him a request from a publishing company that the organization revise a book they planned to publish in advance.

During our meeting, he received a text message speaking ill of me from some unnamed person. It read that I should be ousted from academic circles for allegedly making public the results of a departmental meeting.

Considering the relationship between the president and myself, I could easily guess who the sender of the malicious message was. And after several months, I also got a text message warning me about someone who was saying bad things about me - unsurprisingly, the person whom I guessed earlier - which was from an anonymous sender as well.

Since the tragic death of actress Choi Jin-sil, the issue of malicious messages posted by Internet users hiding behind anonymity has risen to the surface.

It is certain that such anonymous, backbiting posting is a social problem as well as a reckless and inhumane act.

It is a serious social problem if someone is spitting out words thoughtlessly, sometimes just for fun, accompanied with unfounded allegations and criticisms and even using swear words to insult another person’s dignity which leads the person to commit suicide.

Hence, an argument that we need to regulate reckless and malicious comments by Internet users seems logical and some even argue that we should introduce a special legal system to regulate them, a so-called Choi Jin-sil Act.

The issue is more complicated than we expect, however, for comments by various Internet users also serve as a sound critic and a provider of additional information and entertainment, many communications experts note.

And if we try to devise a special law dealing with malicious comments on the Internet, who would judge whether a given comment is malicious enough to be punished or not?

Moreover, is it really because of lack of laws that we’ve failed to punish Internet users that posted those malicious messages?

Under the present system in which the identification of a given Internet user can be traced, if necessary, what we urgently need now is not another special law, but education of Internet users with proper Internet manners from their early years.

Two embarrassing text messages I witnessed three years ago clearly show that anonymous crimes can spread to other communications sources beyond the Internet.

And it assures me again that what matters is not the establishment of a new law, but the education of Internet users.

Huh Jae-young, a professor of liberal arts at Dankook University.
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