South Korea scraps law requiring use of real names online

South Korea scraps law requiring use of real names online

The Constitutional Court in South Korea has ruled that a law implemented five years ago requiring the use of real names online is unconstitutional.

As the AP reports, the law was introduced with the intention of reducing incidences of libel, false rumors and abusive comments. However, the Constitutional Court today said that there was no evidence that it had achieved those goals, and that a mandatory real-name policy undermines free speech and discourages people from voicing opinions for fear of punishment.

The law had proved unpopular in the country, and was easily circumvented. As AFP notes, many Internet users began using non-Korean services in order to continue using false IDs online. Google was among the supporters of this loophole. In 2009, it was reported that the Korean version of YouTube had uploading and commenting features removed, although users could bypass the disabling by logging in via another country’s version of the service.

The law, a reaction to a cyber bullying problem in the country, required websites with more than 100,000 visitors per day to use resident registration numbers as a way of tracking what South Koreans posted online. The collection of these ID numbers was banned only last week over fears of hacking attacks exposing the data held by website operators about their users. Alternative identification methods, such as credit card numbers were being used as ID instead.

Now, however, the unanimous decision of eight judges means that the real-name law is essentially dead, and South Koreans can go back to posting anonymously as much as they like.

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