CYBERATTACKS KILL THOUSANDS

New internet regulations to encourage responsible blogging

It all started in the most wired of societies – South Korea. In 2008 several public figures committed suicide as a result of strong, and often unfounded, online attacks.

Actress Choi Jin Sil, known as “the peoples star”, hanged herself after vicious rumors appeared all over Korean chat sites. Since then it is estimated that more than 1000 suicides in Korea can be directly linked to this kinds of cyber-violence.

The Confucian culture of ‘saving face’ has been blamed but thousands more are being reported world-wide, and in increasing numbers.

Citizens are in uproar calling for governments to “control the internet”. In a pre-emptive and bold move, ICANN, the California non-profit organization that has directed internet traffic since 1998, has implemented new standards and software ‘rules’ that can prevent users of social networking sites and online communities such as SecondLife from hiding their identities. Avatars are fine but they must be hyper-linked to the real you.

“I see this as a first step towards responsible blogging,” says Wolfgang Grulke of FutureWorld. “In corporate networks we have seen that anonymous responses invariably result in extremely irresponsible conduct. As soon as individuals are positively associated with the comments, much more civil communications kick in.”

At this stage the new rules are a national choice. Countries can choose to opt in or out according to their domain suffix.

Korea has opted in. Every new blogger’s identity is verified against a national data base and their photo and name is added to every comment they make. No positive id, no blogging allowed.

It seems almost Draconian but the effect has been immediate.

Corporate sites already require positive identification and this is now the norm for all Koreans.

More countries are expected to follow Korea’s lead.

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