Fake news crackdown measures generate debate over freedom of expression

Arirang TV 2018.10.22.

Fake news has become a part of our daily vocabulary. Partly to blame are social media platforms, as they enable fast dissemination of news or content that carry outright false information or subtle shadings of the truth. Oh Soo-young sheds light on the raging debate here in Korea on whether regulating such content would encroach on the freedom of expression.

Is fake news freedom of expression or is it an abuse of constitutional liberties? That’s the question being posed as the government moves to clamp down on the alarming increase of disinformation. Some of the most outlandish claims include refugees from Yemen being able to receive 12-hundred dollars from the government,… and that foreigners in Korea committed 40-thousand crimes last year.

“Over the past year,… right wing groups which have been accused of producing false news-like contents,… have seen their viewer numbers explode on YouTube — their number one media platform.” With the pervasive nature of social media boosting the spread of such content, a survey of one-thousand mobile users found that 82 percent have been exposed to suspected fake news,… and 40 percent could not distinguish whether news was true. “Fake news is becoming more sophisticated by the day and will likely increase. It doesn’t help that most people rarely come across opinions contrary to their own due to social media settings which offer automatic suggestions based on search history and preferences.”

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon called for a rigorous crackdown on fake news on platforms like YouTube,… and the justice ministry on Tuesday said it would push for early investigations into suspected disinformation,… punishing non-media entities who spread fake news and requiring social media firms to delete content on request. But opposition politicians and some experts are expressing concerns that the regulations could cause more harm than good. “There are already strong laws on defamation and false information during elections. But if all content that’s deemed groundless is restricted, there’s a high chance that freedom of expression will be violated and authorities could use the law for political purposes.” “Part of what constitutes a democracy is the free flow of information. But that also includes low quality, bad and false information. Restrictions could rather suppress voices that our society may really need to hear, under the framework of cracking down on fake news.”

Before any action is taken,… experts say what’s needed first and foremost,… is a society-wide consensus on what constitutes fake news,… to draw a clear starting point for legitimate policymaking that upholds basic liberties.

Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.