South Korea Cracks Down On Internet Libel

The ever confusing limits of Internet free speech came under examination by the South Korean government in light of recent turmoil surrounding importation of American beef which led to numerous stories appearing on the Internet. Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han vowed to introduce stringent measures against online libel, including criminalizing cyberspace libel. “Online defamatory actin, dissemination of false information and menacing calls for businesses not to run their ads in some newspapers have reached a perilous level, and subsequent damage is at a very serious scale, heightening public concern. We needed special measures to redress such illicit acts and disorder in the cyberspace.”

The Justice Minister wants to compel people to identify themselves when presenting information on the Internet. He was particularly upset because several businesses were warned to cease advertising in newspapers that supported the government’s policy of allowing the importation of American beef. The Justice department indicted a woman reporter las month who posted incorrect information on her web site that a female protestor against been imports had been strangled by the police.

Anyone who spends time on the Internet or in MySpace and Facebook undoubtedly encounters examples of individuals spreading false information. But, in a democracy, the right to spread false information is as protected as the right to spread correct information. The situation undoubtedly becomes murkier when a person is the subject of false information and, hopefully, existing libel laws should handle such situations.