South Korea Revises Law Affecting Online Censorship

by Tracy Knauer •

South Korea’s modification of a law that regulates online content could lead to more Internet censorship in the country, critics say.

Korea Times reports that the Korea Communications Standards Commission, or KCSC, has revised a law that allows people to dispute online content that may be defamatory in nature. In its previous form, the law only granted the alleged victims of the defamation to file complaints. The changes make it possible for third parties to contest content, too.

If the KCSC agrees that the content in question is defamatory, it can order its removal from websites.

Critics contend that giving third parties the right to dispute information online effectively broadens the KSCS’s power to remove content at its discretion. With the updated law, anyone can claim that content is defamatory, even if the supposed victims of the defamation do not agree. That leaves authorities with a blank-check option for removing online content.

One opponent of the law complained that “the new system could be abused by certain parties or groups to delete or forestall public opinion.”

The law’s backers say it makes it easier for authorities to protect people, like senior citizens, who may not be able to advocate effectively for themselves when objectionable content about them appears on the Internet. To stem complaints, the law’s designers also drafted a clause that would prevent the law’s misuse by the government to stifle online criticism of public figures. However, that part of the revised law was not included in the final version.

The changes to the law have already been approved.

If there’s good news for anti-censorship advocates here, it’s that it’s unclear to what extent the KSCS has the ability to regulate online content based outside of Korea. Since the agency seeks to remove content by ordering website operators to take material offline, rather than blocking the content at the network level, the impact of these changes will likely remain limited.

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