[At-Large] South Korean Constitutional Court declares Internet "Real Name Policy as Unconstitutional"

Salanieta T. Tamanikaiwaimaro salanieta.tamanikaiwaimaro at gmail.com
Sun Aug 26 23:29:33 UTC 2012



 Internet "Real Name" Law Violates the Constitution, Of Course
Posted on : 2012-08-24 13:54

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The Constitutional Court has decided that the Internet "real name" policy
is unconstitutional.

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

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

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

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

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."

Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro aka Sala
P.O. Box 17862

Twitter: @SalanietaT
Fiji Cell: +679 998 2851

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