Regulation in excessThe Ministry of Gender Equality and Family is out to regulate open group chatting platforms. Together with the police, it has begun a two-month-long clampdown on illicit sharing and spread of video streaming. Open chat rooms and sites are where multiple people can freely and anonymously chat under a certain theme. Unlike typical group chat rooms, these chat rooms do not ask for registration or personal data, so users usually use pseudonyms. The platforms have become the epicenter of the spread of sex and other private videos amid the scandal over entertainers sharing sex videos. The ministry said it was monitoring activities on online chat rooms and extending their investigation from sex trade to video sharing.
Regardless of the purpose of the probe, the act clearly violates privacy and telecommunication freedom. The ministry claimed it was not regulating or censoring private group chat rooms. But the internet has already gone abuzz over the move which is the equivalent of spying on people’s private lives under the pretext of preventing sex crimes.
Jin Sun-mee, the gender minister, is also self-contradictory in pushing the campaign. In a filibuster address as a lawmaker, she strongly protested the conservative ruling party’s anti-terrorism law for fear of infringing on phone privacy.
“[Using] my phone, I have private conversations with my loved ones and gossip with my friends. I have private memos and confidential information. If the spy law passes, my private life would be exposed. We cannot have secret police watching over our head,” she said.
In February, the liberal Moon Jae-in administration also launched measures to regulate the server name indication (SNI) that allows multiple hostnames to be served over HTTPS from the same IP address in order to restrict access to illicit sites. It blocked as many as 900 websites, claiming they contained illicit materials and contents. That is an action only thought to be possible under rigid state control in a place like China.
Preventing and fighting sex crimes is important. But resorting to online regulations goes against the freedom of expression.
Korea is dangerously veering toward becoming a regulatory powerhouse.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 3, Page 30