Updated : Jun.17.2005 02:20 KST

[Editorial] Netizens Need 'Ethical Guidelines'

The "character assassinations' on the internet are getting extreme. The painful experiences presented at a recent civic group gathering are a clear example of how bad the evils of "cyber violence" have become. The case of Twist Kim is typical. His 50 year acting career came to an end and his wife is suffering depression because a pornography site chose to use his name for its domain. The internet came into being because people needed it, but somewhere along the way it became a scary place.

It was expected early on that there would be negative aspects to the internet. Ethical standards were bound to be left out of the picture when one's anonymity is completely guaranteed and you can join or leave a forum so easily. You can join in and have a lot of fun, then slip back out without anyone pursuing you or anyone assuming responsibility, so there was bound to be criticism that is baseless and that people fail to bear responsibility for. The particular character of the internet contributed to the unspeakable verbal abuse unleashed on a woman in her twenties, now known as the so-called "dog shit woman" (gaettongnyeo), who did not clean up after her dog when it pooped on the subway. They say there is no way you can understand how harsh the cyber violence can be unless you have been at the receiving end.

At this point it would seem necessary to declare an all-out war on this new form of violence in the digital age. There are increasing calls for analysis of the types of cyber violence and measures that would assist people seeking help, and for better organization of the related legislation that is currently too vague. However, over-dependency on legal rules could harm internet debate and discussion, which is an important part of Korea's mature civil society. That is why it is more important that civil society engage in self-regulation to effectively fight cyber violence, instead of having that effort led by the government. It would be worth having civic groups and the media rise to the occasion and formulate "ethical guidelines" for the prevention of cyber violence, and for netizens to engage in a campaign to implement them voluntarily.

The Hankyoreh, 17 June 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]

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Copyright 2005 The Hankyoreh