[Letters] Social network platforms: Enemy of democracy?

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[Letters] Social network platforms: Enemy of democracy?

Lately, social networking services (SNS) and other mobile communication methods have altered political culture. They have changed the faces of existing party politics, and new stars have been born through them. Political parties are responding quickly, utilizing mobile devices and reflecting the Twitter factor in nomination. The government is also actively converging opinions on SNS.

However, SNS pose just as much adverse effects as positive changes, so there has to be a standard to resolve discords. Recently, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 93 clause 1 of the Public Election Law was unconstitutional. The court provided standards on the limitation of control on SNS.

The ruling clearly states that the control on SNS would be against the principle of ban on excessive campaigning, considering freedom of speech and freedom of canvassing. As a result, election campaigns using SNS will gain momentum, and hence, the vice of money-driven campaigns would decrease.

At the same time, the Constitutional Court confirmed that displaying ungrounded facts or personal attacks may be controlled according to the Public Election Law and the Criminal Law. Abuse of SNS would be punishable under the law. Of course, it is very hard to decide whether a posting includes ungrounded facts or personal attacks. In the end, each individual case is subject to judgment.

As public figures, politicians have to be more considerate than average citizens, and the citizens must be protected from ungrounded rumors or insulting remarks. When these postings are reproduced and distributed and damage the peaceful life of an innocent citizen, the person who spread the malicious posting should take responsibility in a healthy society. Censorship cannot be tolerated, but when personal rights are infringed due to SNS, there has to be a clear ways to recover and reverse the harm.

In order for SNS to play the crucial rule in the development of democracy and promote politics for the people and by the people, we need to act more actively to prevent infringement of personal rights. We need to create a sustainable environment where we work together for healthy and productive usage.

Politicians need to use SNS not as a means of instigation but a channel of healthy criticism and alternatives. It is the responsibility of all SNS users. A knife is a necessary object used in surgeries that save lives and in preparation of healthy meals. But when the knife is used in the wrong way, it can hurt people.

Choi Seung-pil, a professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Law School

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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