Let’s clean up cyberspace

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Let’s clean up cyberspace

An aberrant culture that thrives on malicious attacks against opponents has arisen in our society, and it manifests itself whenever a contentious issue comes up. A good example was radical groups’ brazen threats against advertisers at the peak of the unfounded scare over mad cow disease from U.S. beef imports in the summer of 2008. At the time, a makeshift advocacy group - disgruntled with mainstream newspapers, which criticized the massive candlelight protests against U.S. beef - tried to pressure companies not to run advertisements in those papers and also tried to organize a boycott of the companies. Most of the hotheads were later found guilty in court.

Our weird culture of impassioned threats is playing out again over the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. The only difference this time around is that leftist civic groups are waging war in cyberspace, armed with social networking services, Twitter in particular. They are even taking aim at some of the main opposition Democratic Party lawmakers who agreed to a compromise over the FTA.

On Twitter, a list of “14 traitors from DP” is spreading. A post about DP lawmaker Kim Sung-gon, who led the compromise with the ruling Grand National Party, calls for his defection to the GNP. On the Twitter page of Kim Jin-pyo, DP floor leader and a pro-compromise legislator, a jeer said: “Traitor Kim, why don’t you emigrate to the U.S.?”

The attacks went so far as to promote a song persuading members of the young generation not to support pro-FTA politicians in the next general election. In the name of freedom of speech in cyberspace, they are actively engaged in illegal campaigns to eliminate politicians on the pro-FTA front. The National Election Commission has requested that the police investigate four netizens who posted menacing messages on their homepages.

Threats made beneath the cloak of anonymity are vicious and unaccountable, which terrifies even the most conscientious lawmakers. Just as the National Election Commission referred the case to the law enforcement agency, the authorities must treat those careless netizens strictly. Above all, a new culture renouncing irresponsible remarks in cyberspace must be established soon so that it can stop misleading and frivolous rumors from flooding the political space. Twitter stars such as renowned novelists or professors - who have tens of thousands of followers - can help teach emotional netizens the gravity of the issue.

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