Google tests if there is a business model for free expression

Is there a business model in providing Internet users with free expression? Looks like Google might find out in South Korea.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor
Is there a business model in providing Internet users with free expression? Looks like Google might find out in South Korea. Earlier this month, a law in South Korea came into effect requiring web site owners with at least 100,000 daily users to verify the real names of people before allowing them to upload files or leave comments. Google, however, decided to cripple its YouTube Korea site preventing Koreans from uploading files or leaving comments, and thus avoiding having to comply with the law. Google pointed out to its Korean users that they could still upload files and leave comments by "choosing a version of a different country."

The Hankyoreh newspaper reported:

Rachel Whetstone, vice president of Global Communications & Public Affairs at Google, offered in a statement posted on Google Korea's Website the reason why the company has refused to comply to the real-name system. In a statement titled, "Freedom of Expression on the Internet," Whetstone said, "Google thinks the freedom of expression is most important value to uphold on the internet." Whetstone continued to say, "We concluded in the end that it is impossible to provide benefits to internet users while observing this country's law because the law does not fall in line with Google's principles."

It's impressive that Google has chosen its principles over the law of a country. I'd love to see that in other countries, such as China. It's also impressive as a possible business strategy. Google has a very low share of the South Korean Internet market, as low as 5 per cent by some estimates. And it's much larger Korean competitors cannot avoid the law as easily as Google. Will this strategy by Google help boost its standing among Korean users and build its market share? Is there a business model for providing Internet users with free expression? I guess we will find out. - - - Please see:

The Korea Times: YouTube User Needs Real-Name

KCC officials explain that such measures were inevitable to curb "cyber bullying" and reduce misinformation on the Internet. However, critics argue that the Lee Myung-bak government is getting overzealous in its efforts to monitor cyberspace, after being repeatedly attacked by bloggers, first over the controversial decision to resume U.S. beef imports, and more recently for its ineptitude in economic policies.

The watershed moment came in January when police arrested Park Dae-sung, a blogger known more widely as "Minerva" and a frequent critic of the government's economic polices, on charges of "deliberately" undermining public interest by distributing fraudulent information.

YouTube subject to Korea's real name system :

YouTube enjoyed countless hits during the presidential election last year when one of its users uploaded a video of an interview with lawmaker Park Young-sun, in which he discussed the BBK scandal; the video had been deleted from Korean portal sites. Recently, it is earning many hits thanks to a video of President Lee allegedly fanning Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has also been deleted from Korean Web sites.

Is Korea Turning Into Internet Police State?

According to the draft, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the country's spy agency, gets expanded surveillance power that allows real-time interception of mobile phone and Internet communication, compared to current law that limits monitoring to fixed-line telephone calls.

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