- Internet "Real Name" Law Violates the Constitution, Of Course
The judges unanimously voted that clause 5 of article 44 in the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection, which requires websites with more than an average of 100,000 visitors a day to verify the real name of the user when the person posts on the website, violated the Constitution.
We welcome the court's decision to protect the freedom of speech by abolishing this anachronistic regulation.
The court ruling was mainly supported by the fact that the real name policy infringes the users' right to free speech and to determine personal information, along with the operators' freedom of speech. The court pointed out, "If we are to restrict freedom of expression, public interests we would thereby acquire must be clear.
On August 23 at the Constitutional Court, the judges are seated to announce their decision that the Internet real name policy is unconstitutional. From the left are the justices, Lee Jung-Mi, Song Doo-Hwan, Lee Dong-Heub, Kim Jong-Dae, Lee Kang-Kuk, Min Hyeong-Ki, Mok Young-Jun, Park Han-Chul. Yonhap news
We have yet to see a sharp decline in illegal postings, and with users fleeing to overseas websites, the policy has caused reverse discrimination between domestic and overseas businesses. Taking these factors into consideration, it is difficult to say that we have contributed to public interest."
Apparently, the court has agreed with most of the arguments made by the civic society in their efforts to abolish the real name system.
The real name policy was introduced in 2007 to prevent harmful consequences of vicious comments made anonymously. Originally, it was targeted to websites with more than 300,000 visitors a day, but in 2009 the number was lowered to 100,000 visitors, forcing most major websites to follow the policy.
However, people criticized the system, questioning its effectiveness and claiming that it only obstructed free speech. As a series of large scale hacking incidents occurred at sites run by Auction, SK Communications, and KT, people pointed out that the policy only encouraged leaks in personal information.
Since the candlelight rallies, the Lee Myung-bak government has constantly tried to put a gag on the Internet by reinforcing the real name system and by arresting the Internet columnist known as Minerva. They claimed that they were preventing libel, but underneath their claims is an anti-democratic mind that is trying to muzzle unfavorable press coverage.
Why else would The New York Times point out, "Online anonymity is essential for political dissidents... and for corporate whistle-blowers," criticizing Korea's real name policy last year?
Hiding behind online anonymity and spreading false rumors or slandering someone with abusive words is clearly an act of violence. However, the court's decision has confirmed that implementing a real name policy to control these actions is like burning the house down to roast the pig.
Some are concerned that this decision may have side effects, such as the defamation of celebrities online. However, these wrongdoings can be punished by tracing the Internet address of the user.
The increase in freedom of speech may bring some discomfort for the time being, but still it is something we should bear. As the Constitutional Court pointed out, "The freedom of expression is an important constitutional value, which is the basis of democracy."