after being asked to adopt Korea’s real name system
Global Internet firm Google has fallen into the trap of Korea’s “real name system.”
Google’s YouTube (youtube.com), the world’s largest video site, has become subject to the real name system, which obliges Internet users to use their real names when posting information to Web sites. YouTube now stands at a crossroads and must decide whether to adopt the real name system or alter or drop its service in Korea.
The government announced on July 22 comprehensive measures to protect online information, expanding the number of sites subject to the real name system from media outlets, portals and UCC sites getting up to 300,000 visitors a day to those getting just 100,000 a day. YouTube, which was getting 800,000 visitors weekly as of the second week of August, will from next year be subject to the real name system. An official with the Korea Communications Commission said that YouTube, even though it is an overseas site, will not be exempt from the system, and that Google has, in the past, accepted Korean regulations, such as those regarding underage protections.
Google applies a common set of rules regarding personal information worldwide. A YouTube account, which is required to upload content to YouTube or post comments, can be made with just an email address. Google Korea Director Jeong-Kim Gyeongsuk said Google’s global principles provide the greatest guarantee of personal information protection and freedom of expression while respecting local laws. She said Google was taking seriously YouTube’s subjection to the real name system and was currently discussing measures.
Google has run into an unprecedented situation in Korea, the only country in the world that operates an online real name system. For Google, which values its international image, to demand connection information through real name verification only in Korea is quite burdensome. SearchMaster Co. President Jeon Byeong-guk said Google is where it is today because of the trust people have in it and its principles, and that Google -- whose market share in Korea is not very high -- would not make a foolish decision. Google, whose motto is “Don’t be evil,” came under international criticism and lost a good deal of trust as a search engine by accepting Chinese government censorship in order to enter the Chinese market.
Visitors to YouTube’s Korean site, which opened earlier this year, grew from 230,000 in January to 2.9 million in July. With the government strengthening controls of the Internet with the candlelight protests against U.S. beef, Google and YouTube experienced sharp growth as Korean Internet users regarded both sites as a place of refuge. Google Korea even refused to erase a list of the Chosun Ilbo’s advertisers, a recent target of investigation by prosecutors, stating that after discussions with the U.S. headquarters it had concluded that the document did not violate Google user policy. YouTube enjoyed countless hits during the presidential election last year when one of its users uploaded a video of an interview with lawmaker Park Young-sun, in which he discussed the BBK scandal; the video had been deleted from Korean portal sites. Recently, it is earning many hits thanks to a video of President Lee allegedly fanning Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has also been deleted from Korean Web sites.
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