Postings during campaigns must bear real names

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Postings during campaigns must bear real names

The Constitutional Court upheld an election law requiring Internet users to register their names when posting remarks about candidates for elected posts during official campaign periods, refuting claims by critics that the law infringes upon freedom of expression.

In a close 5-4 ruling, the Constitutional Court on Thursday said that the challenged Public Official Election Act works to “ensure the fairness of an election campaign” in a country where the Internet is a major source of information during campaigns.

For a law to be declared unconstitutional, six or more justices out of nine must agree.

In the majority opinion, the five justices concurred that there could be “a great distortion of facts from the spread of false rumors circulated through the online space” in the absence of a law mandating online users register their names for political remarks during campaigns.

The majority said the requirement did not constitute an infringement of voters’ rights because it only applies to postings in which an author supports or opposes a candidate and requires no other personal information other than names.

The majority opinion also cited the ease of registering one’s name online, which does not require much time or money.

Article 6 of clause 82 in the Public Official Election Act stipulates that an online site operator will be fined up to 10 million won ($8,530) if it allows users to upload political postings without actual names. Daum Communications, which became Daum Kakao following its merger with a smartphone messaging application, appealed to the Constitutional Court in 2013 after it was fined 10 million won for having allowed portal site users to upload political postings during the presidential election campaign in December 2012.

In the minority opinion, four justices argued that malicious remarks bearing no truth were caused by “many variables in the political and social culture,” not by “allowing unnamed online postings.”

The four justices said considering that it is difficult to define a fair anonymous political opinion from a malicious one, restricting expressions of opinions would only impede efforts to achieve a fair election and violate the individual’s freedom of expression.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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