Sunday, July 10, 2005

Portals and the Cyber Terror blame game

The 2005 'Dog Poop Girl' incident

Part 1: Internet Witchhunts and Conflict Resolution
Part 2: Riding the wave of 'cyber terror' articles
Part 3: 'Real Names' in Korean Cyberspace
Part 4: Portals and the Cyber Terror blame game
Part 5: Dog 'Poop' Girl Redux

Part 4: Portals and the Cyber Terror blame game

The Joongang Ilbo has an interesting story titled 'Web harassment victims plan to sue portal sites.' One of the people is a woman whose 15 year old daughter was harrassed to the point that she ran away and has been missing since March. The other man had asked several portals to remove messages in which personal information about him had been posted, but none responded.
"By remaining silent about such postings, the portals have increased their traffic and made more money from ads," said Byeong Hui-jae, who represents a group of cyber terror victims.

Kim Seong-ho of Kinternet, an assocation of Internet companies, said the sites should not be held accountable. "Holding the portals responsible for the problems may discourage Internet business," he said.
Oh, well, if it's going to discourage business, the harrassment will have to continue. What an ass. The point about increasing traffic (and hurting business) is certainly worth considering. The Kinternet spokesman's comment seems to acknowledge that the greater the controversy, the more traffic they get and more revenue they receive. During 'English-Spectrum Gate,' the Marmot reported "a huge spike in traffic after the Joongang piece (which broke the story) went up on major Korean portal sites," and that "the Yahoo! Korea piece [was] the sixth-most-looked-at story of the day, garnering 925 comments" in mere hours. A portion of netizen attentions focussed upon the girls in the photos (which had been posted uncensored on these sites) and soon they were facing an incredible amount of harrassment, which, it would seem, was good for the portals' business. Perhaps the portals could take a cue from the newly moderated English Spectrum.

At any rate, the article does give the indication that there might be alternatives to a 'Real Name' system, as does an article at the Joongang Ilbo titled 'Portal sites face probe on cyber violence'. I doubt it's a coincidence that the government announced it would investigate some 15 different portals the day after the people described above held their press conference. The article says that the government plans to 'ask the companies operating those sites to make it easier for Internet users to delete specific postings on Web boards that defame individuals online. Well, this could lead to problems as well ('hey, where did that entire thread go?'). An article at the Chosun Ilbo giving tips on how to protect yourself from 'phishing' and other internet scams does not take note of the fact that the frequent use of Resident Numbers in Korean cyberspace is what makes Koreans much more vulnerable to this kind of hacking (which the article says is on the rise), and that a 'real name' system could possibly make things worse in this respect.

On a related note, the Donga Ilbo reports that:
[a]n organization of hackers was caught by the police for hacking into Korean portal sites to procure the personal information of 50,000 internet users and then stealing cyber cash from them.
Apparently a Mr Lee used a group of Chinese hackers and Korean e-money changers to pull this off.
Lee took advantage of the fact that most Korean netizens use the same ID and password when using portal and game sites and logged on using those to steal e-money. They later cashed the stolen e-money worth 150 million won through Jo and his group of e-money changers. The Chinese hackers, Korean money changers, and Lee divided up the cash in a 4:4:3 ratio.
Not a bad haul for the mastermind. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the e-cash was from game sites. For more on e-theft from game users, have a look here (and for game-related off-line violence, see here).


On July 11, a Joongang Ilbo article, "Defending Real Names," presented the viewpoint of Information Minister Chin Dae-je and his ministry's plans to crack down on cyber terrorism, telling readers that "measures like forcing Internet users to use their real names online [...] will safeguard freedom of expression." On July 19, in an op-ed titled "Bringing Order to the Internet" (anyone else find it difficult not to picture Darth Vader when reading that title?), sociology professor Bae Young opines that a real name system "will do a great deal to prevent reckless behavior online."
The opponents of the proposed system argue that the use of real names is not required in any other country in the world. They also say that since many organizations and companies with an online presence require the use of real names now, such a system virtually exists already. But Koreans use community sites and bulletin boards more actively than any other people in the world do. Information spreads through them at remarkable speed. We are in a unique situation that cannot be objectively compared to that of other countries.
And there you have it. On a related note, a July 22 article revealed that 20,000 internet users' private data had been exposed on the internet in the first half of 2005.

No comments: