The Constitutional Court ruled that the ‘Name verification’ legislation is constitutional on July 26th, which will be applied to the election period. The main reason for this is that during an election period, propaganda and false information are circulated. The media could test public confidence through information distortion without their awareness.
Meanwhile, last August 18th, a committee of the National Assembly voted for a revised bill of the Public Official Election Act. The revised bill includes the abolition of the Internet name verification policy during an election period. This is the opposite to the decision of the court and there is growing controversy over the Internet name verification policy. The committee submitted the revised bill to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The Legislation and Judiciary Committee planned to process this bill on August 24th, but the conference was cancelled due to the confrontational situation of the opposing parties.
Internet name verification policy (Public Official Election Act, the 6 clause of Article 82) during an election period is a system that when people post a message on the Internet as an informational medium which is related to supporting or opposing a particular party and/or candidate, they have to use their real name; those who fail to do so will be charged a fine less than 10 million won.
The Internet name verification policy was mandatory after 2002, because of the increase in cyber-crimes abusing the anonymity of the Internet. On March 12th, 2004 the Internet name verification was specified in the Public Official Election Act. After that, it was first introduced in July of 2007 for any internet bulletin board whose average daily number of users is over 300,000.
From January 28th, 2009, the number of websites increased as did the internet bulletin boards, from that point any website whose average daily number of visitors was over one hundred thousand people they were also held responsible for having its users provide their names when posting. However, on August 28th, 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled the Internet name verification policy was unconstitutional on the grounds that it restricts freedom of expression and basic human rights. Consequently, the Internet name verification policy, focusing on Internet message boards, was abolished five years after its introduction.
On September 8th, our newspaper conducted a survey of Yeungnam University students to know their opinions of the Internet name verification policy. As a result, to the question ‘Do you know about the Internet name verificaion policy?’ 147 (60.9%) of 241 did not know about it. Also, to the question ‘Do you agree/disagree with the Internet name verification policy?’ results emerged as ‘Favor’ 69.9% (165), ‘Oppose’ 30.1% (71). In this way, Yeungnam University students mostly responded positively to the Internet name verification policy. Mr. A. who agreed to the Internet name verification policy said “If it was introduced, crimes of abusing Internet anonymity would decrease, and it could contribute to making a correct Internet culture.” However Mr. B. who disagreed with it said “Even if the Internet name verification policy is introduced, the effectiveness of regulation is not great in a situation that SNS is widely used.”
“The Internet name verification policy during an election period violates freedom of expression, but it is necessary for the fairness of election and political diversity,” professor Park Han-woo (Communication studies) said. “When the Internet name verification policy takes effect, there’s a limit to powerless commoners who want to express their opinion freely on online, so their rights could not be well protected.”