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Korean Officials Angered By Google’s Decision To Bypass Law

Google’s decision to bypass a new South Korean law by shutting off comments and video uploads on its YouTube Korea site appears to have seriously irked the Korean government. Korean paper Hankyoreh reports that the Korean government is considering some sort of legal action against Google (NSDQ: GOOG). The paper also says that a lawmaker told a National Assembly committee last week that Google was “speaking as though Korea is (a) backwards internet nation that is intensifying its internet censorship.”

Google says it wrestled with how to comply with the law, which would have required it to collect the names and resident numbers of people who upload videos on YouTube Korea — and possibly hand that information over to the government. A Google spokeswoman told late last month that “Google respects local law/regulation but at the same time we continue trying to promote freedom of speech on the internet.”

Ultimately, the company decided to get around the new regulations by limiting the features on its Korean website. Google also explained the move in a Korean blog post and shared a translation: “We believe that it is important for free expression that people have the right to remain anonymous if they choose.”

It’s unclear what legal action South Korea’s government could take, although Hankyoreh quotes a Korea Communications Commission official as saying that the commission will be taking a close look for “illegal activities” at all of its South Korean services, not just YouTube.

A similar situation on the way in Germany? Germany is considering instituting a law even more stringent than the one Google is trying to sidestep in South Korea. NewTeeVee reports that conservative politicians there have proposed a law that would require not just commenters and video uploaders but also video viewers to register their name, address and federal ID card numbers on video sites in an effort to cut back on the number of violent videos online. Google’s decision to circumvent the Korean law could create an awkward precedent in Germany since Google would seemingly have to pull down the entire site in that country order to get around the law.

5 Responses to “Korean Officials Angered By Google’s Decision To Bypass Law”

  1. Google is not breaking the law, they are choosing to abstain from cooperating with an unjust and corrupt law. They are taking a principled stand to avoid repeating what the founders have admitted on occasion may have been Google's biggest mistake to date: complicity with the Chinese government on censorship. Having spent a year living in Seoul I had consistent, obnoxious encounters with the Korean "identity wall": you can barely do anything on the internet without being forced to give out your citizen's ID card number. With a little bit of reflection, it's easy to see how monumental Google's decision is and what its implications are for a nation that styles itself broadly and vocally as "the most wired nation on earth." Google is, in effect saying to the SK government: "What you are doing is wrong and immoral. The right to anonymity is the lifeblood of freedom of speech. We don't mind if you castigate us. We are bigger than you." It's true. Google won't be harmed; it's "bigger" than South Korea. Accept it, change, or have your tyranny put on show for all. No other options are available.

  2. @jake

    You are missing the point completely, for all those people that gawk about google becoming "big brother" and laugh about the "don't be evil" policy. Here is proof that google is willing to break laws to protect the information of it's users. I have to say my respect for google is has risen a notch reading this article. This defiance of an obviously dangerous law can cause "serious harm" to Korea, people will let their rights slowly slip away blindly until suddenly it smacks them in the face, like "why can't I put things on youtube anymore?" I say go GOOG thay will make more money off the boost to consumer confidence in large markets than they will lose in Korea anyway.

  3. @ Hitsquad

    The only "serious harm" will be to Google because in the end the government can completely cut off its citizens access to any Google service. Just like China completely blocking YouTube.

    Google better learn to play ball or simply give up trying to have a presence in that region.

  4. In this article, you're saying "Germany is considering instituting a law even more stringent" and "that conservative politicians there have proposed". To make things clear: This is a political maneuvre or media stunt, started by conservative youth Group "Junge Union" ("read "youth for mccain" or "young republicans" in US speak) and will never be formed into law because of existing strong privacy laws. Just don't worry.