Social media threatens Internet real-name requirement
Technology news site Bloter has cleverly avoided the country’s real-name registration rules by allowing users to leave comments through its Twitter and Facebook accounts. Bloter's comment section, which allows users to post messages from different social media services, is based on LiveRe, an online commenting service developed and managed by Cizion, a Seoul-based Internet technology company. / Korea Times
By Kim Tong-hyung
In a bizarre consequence, the government’s attempts to monitor Web behavior appears to be giving the social media boom a further jolt.
Kicked in the teeth by bloggers, first for the controversial decision to restart U.S. beef imports and then for its supposed ineptitude in economic policies, the Lee Myung-bak government has been considering a variety of ways to strengthen its monitoring of the Internet in recent years.
One of the key measures was to limit online anonymity, and since last year, all Internet users have been required to make verifiable real-name registrations for leaving comments on forums and chat-rooms of most of the country’s websites.
Internet users have been resisting the new rules ferociously, with many of them moving their e-mails and blogging accounts to foreign services like Google in what was dubbed by the local media as ``cyber exile.’’
This also forced Internet companies to get creative in avoiding the real-name requirements while also retaining their health in traffic. Google chose to cripple the Korean version of YouTube to prevent users from posting comments and videos on it, although they could still perform those functions by simply changing the country preference.
Bloter (www.bloter.net), an online technology magazine, came up with a prettier solution. Instead of having readers log-on directly to the website, Bloter allowed them to leave comments on its articles through their personal social media accounts.
Bloter is now injected with a wealth of feedback from the users of Twitter (www.twitter.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com) and Me2Day (www.me2day.net), and it appears the idea is catching on with larger news organizations and even government websites.
Major newspapers, including the ``Big Three’’ of the Chosun Ilbo, Joogang Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo, have all established Twitter accounts, as have national television networks KBS, MBC and SBS.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government are among the central and municipal government agencies that are publishing feedback from social media users on their websites.
Embracing social media, of course, means much more than just avoiding heavy-handed government rules, as the popularity of Twitter and Facebook has been exploding here thanks to the smartphone boom triggered by the Apple iPhone. Bloter says it has enjoyed a massive spark in traffic since strengthening its social media link and the major news organizations are clearly hoping for a similar effect.
The news company’s expanded use of social media is the latest evidence that the government’s real-name regulations are close to being rendered irrelevant. Bloter has no control over the comments that are tagged below its articles, many of them kept in the servers of foreign services like Twitter and Facebook, which are basically inaccessible to the Korean authorities.
With the Internet moving more and more toward portable devices, geographic boundaries are blurring increasingly, and this makes it hard for authorities to continue to enforce Korea-specific rules.
Although computer users had predominantly relied on the services of Korean Internet companies, smartphone users appear to be convinced that life is okay without Naver. And the KCC has already admitted it can’t do anything about iPhone users uploading YouTube using their handsets.
However, government officials aren’t ready to declare their Internet rules a mistake. An official from the KCC’s Internet policy team said the regulator has hired a law firm to investigate whether websites allowing readers to post comments through social media services is a violation of the current real-name requirements.
``The law firm is discussing this, and since more and more media companies are introducing `social media comments,’ we are hoping to be handed a conclusion shortly,’’ said the KCC official.
한국정부의 강화된 인터넷 통제가 엉뚱하게도 소셜미디어 확산에 기여하는 모양새다. 이명박 정부는 출범초기부터 미국산 쇠고기 수입재개, 경제정책 부실 논란 등을 두고 사이버 공간에서 많은 비판을 받았으며 이에 대응하여 인터넷에 대한 감시를 강화하여왔다.
그 중 가장 논란이 되어온 것은 인터넷 공간에서의 익명성에 대한 제한이었다. 지난해부터 한국 인터넷 유저들은 메이저 웹사이트에 코멘트를 남기기 위해선 실명 인증과정을 거쳐야 했다.
이러한 인터넷 실명제에 대한 인터넷 유저들의 저항은 대단히 격앙된 것이었으며 이중 많은 이들은 이메일과 블로그 계정을 구글 등 외국서비스로 옮기는 소위 `사이버 망명’의 대열에 합류하기도 하였다.
인터넷 회사들 또한 정부의 본인 확인제를 우회하기 위한 방법들을 고안하기 위해 고심하게 되었다. 구글의 경우 인터넷 동영상 서비스 유튜브의 한국사이트에 유저들이 댓글이나 동영상을 남기는 것을 막는 것으로 대응하였다. 물론 유저들이 국가선택을 다르게 하면 쉽게 컨텐츠를 올릴 수 있었다.
온라인 테크놀러지 매체인 블로터는 이보다 우아한 방법을 고안하였다. 즉 유저들에게 실명으로 로그인하는 것을 요구하는 대신 소셜 미디어 서비스 계정을 통해서 댓글을 남길 수 있도록 열어둔 것이다.
블로터의 사이트는 이제 페이스북, 트위터, 미투데이 등 인기 소셜 미디어 서비스 유저들의 댓글로 넘쳐나고 있다. 이러한 방식의 소셜 댓글은 이제 메이저 언론사나 정부기관의 웹사이트에 까지 도입되고 있는 듯하다.