South Korea has tightened the monitoring of social networking sites in a bid to curb illicit content including North Korean propaganda.
According to an AFP report on Thursday, the Korea Communications Standards Commission unveiled a team consisting of eight members tasked to examine Facebook and Twitter posts and smartphone apps.
Users will be asked to delete "harmful or illegal" content related to pornography, gambling, drug abuse, false information, and defamation, which are considered criminal offenses in South Korea, the government agency noted.
Han Myeong-Ho, its team leader also told the news agency that postings and sites "[praising] North Korea or [glorifying] its leaders]" would also be targets as such content had been on the rise this year. "North Korea had stepped up its propaganda drive through social networking sites," Han added.
If users refuse to remove the materials, the commission will call for Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to offending accounts and sites, he said.
The move promptly led to protests from liberal groups which said the Seoul government was trying to prevent the "private exchange of opinions" on social networking sites. Critics also expressed that the government was muzzling its opponents, while fighting North Korea's propaganda campaign.
"The commission must immediately stop its anachronistic act restricting freedom of expression," the six civic groups said in a joint statement released Tuesday.
The Seoul government, however, denied it ever tried to influence the news media.
This regulation parallels India's move earlier this week where the country's telecoms and IT minister Kapil Sibal met executives from Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, asking them to screen content by removing disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory materials before it goes online. India had also drawn online criticisms surrounding the government's attempt to censor free speech.