Wholesale meddling

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Wholesale meddling

The prosecution has announced it discovered as many as 1.21 million messages on Twitter posted by the National Intelligence Service staff to meddle in last year’s presidential and general elections. The huge number of tweets and retweets by the agents in the controversial case contradicts the top spy agency’s previous explanations that the posting of online messages was done individually by agents.

According to a special investigation team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, it all began with 26,550 original messages, which were disseminated through various ways, including tweets and retweets, to reach the total number. Based on the new findings, the prosecution requested the court to allow a change in its earlier indictment of Won Sei-hoon, former head of the National Intelligence Service. The prosecution believes those online campaigns violated the laws on elections and the NIS. Prosecutors are currently checking how many of the original 26,550 messages were directly created by the agents.

Both the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition Democratic Party held separate press conferences to demand that the man under suspicion for obstructing the prosecution’s initial investigation be excluded from the investigation line, citing the omission of the new evidence from the beginning.

One of the most shocking allegations is that the NIS used professional programs for a massive circulation of tweets. The prosecution said they used a special program that enables them to disseminate hundreds of newspaper articles by automatically creating scores of new IDs. They also used a semi-automatic “tweet-back program” to circulate as many messages as possible.

The prosecution believes that the NIS agents exploited the sophisticated programs to report greater achievements to their boss. It’s common sense that there’s no big difference between tweets and retweets. Given the large number of the online messages and the professional programs involved, we can hardly buy NIS chief Nam Jae-joon’s Nov. 4 explanation that the online postings were committed by a small group of staff on their own. Now suspicion is growing over the possibility that the spy agency was systematically involved in giving a helping hand to President Park Geun-hye in the election.

The prosecution must get to the bottom of the case by finding out who did what, how and why. The prosecution must not scale back - or inflate - the scandal. The spy agency also must tell the truth through its own investigation rather than resorting to poor explanations. They should know that it is the only way to resolve the crisis and earn back the people’s trust.

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