When netizens attack

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When netizens attack

Seoul Central District Court Judge Kim Yong-sang has come under attack in cyberspace after issuing a warrant to detain Park Dae-sung, a.k.a. “Minerva,” who was charged with spreading false rumors on the Internet. This is further evidence that violence in cyberspace should no longer be overlooked.

There were not only online messages condemning the issuance of the warrant but postings included Kim’s personal information such as his photograph and academic background.

The attack will certainly harm Kim. The viciousness of the anonymous Internet postings leaves us speechless. The attackers highlighted what they thought was the unfairness of the warrant, saying detention warrants were issued against Kim Min-seok, a Democratic Party senior official, and Roh Geon-pyeong, the brother of former President Roh Moo-hyun, but not against Rep. Yang Jeong-Lyea of Pro-Park United.

Kim has a history of rejecting warrant requests against Oh Sei-chull, a Yonsei University professor who was accused of violating the National Security Law; Choi Yul, former chairman of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, and Shin Hak-rim, former head of the National Union of Media Workers. Yet Kim issued a warrant against the first lady’s cousin, Kim Ok-hee.

The online attackers have committed an act of terror against the court by distorting the facts. Is it right that these netizens who attacked Kim are treated equally as other Internet users who have good intentions in exercising freedom of speech? The insults are too malicious to expect responsible self-restraint by the users.

Research has shown that the level of aggressiveness in an Internet attack is six times stronger than a face-to-face confrontation. Last year, many people took their lives, quit their jobs or left school and moved away due to online violence. Actress Choi Jin-sil committed suicide because of Internet rumors.

However, lawmakers are overlooking the seriousness of the issue as measures to prevent cyber violence become a political football between the progressives and the conservatives. To protect freedom of speech appropriately, the government should come up with ways to mitigate the negative impact of the Internet. The government should minimize legal punishment against such abuses of freedom of speech in cyberspace but should strengthen education on Internet use, activate mediation of Internet-related disputes and toughen regulations on Internet portals.
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