Establishing order in cyberspaceThe court has set the grounds for cyberdefamation.
The decision was a triumph for Tablo against heedless bullies who used the Internet’s cloak of anonymity to defame the rapper and songwriter over his academic background.
A Seoul Central Court judge ruled against all nine members of the online community called Tajinyo, specifically organized for bashing and defamatory activities against Tablo over doubts about the Korean-Canadian’s degree from Stanford University. The court handed down 10-month jail sentences for three who were unrepentant, while giving probation to six who apologized and expressed regret for their actions.
A separate court the same day ordered 800,000 won ($700) fines for each of the three defendants for defaming candidates Park Won-soon and Na Kyung-won on the Internet during the Seoul mayoral election.
The online bashing of Tablo began two years after an anonymous blogger claimed the popular rapper for hip-hop group Epik High did not graduate from Stanford as he claimed. He and the U.S. school provided evidence of his degree, but the issue failed to die down.
Surprisingly, the followers of the cyberspace witch hunt stubbornly refused to back off. The anti-Tablo Web site is still active and the defendants claimed in court that the evidence had been fabricated. The judge told the defendants he would not be able to even prove his own identity in the way they doggedly resist the truth.
Extreme hate cyberattacks and merciless herd ostracizing have become a unique part of Korean Internet culture. Cyberspace offered enormous relief from the stifling mores of society. Online, malicious slander and attack came to be considered as freedom of expression and fun. The online habitat turned vicious and brutal on portal sites with lax oversight that enabled the malignant culture and its monsters to grow.
Freedom of expression is among our constitutional rights. But the Constitution also stipulates that such freedom must not be abused to invade privacy or damage the reputation of others. It also demands restraint if there is the possibility that it might undermine national security, order and community well-being. Our everyday rights and duties are often neglected in cyberspace. Law enforcement authorities must continue efforts to establish order in the online community.
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