A fabricated Web interview of former national soccer coach Guus Hiddink has caused a ruckus after a slew of Internet media outlets carried the false story. The false story said Hiddink told a Dutch soccer magazine that the national team played baseball and not soccer in its second World Cup group game versus Argentina. Internet media quoted the story without verification, and even certain broadcasters were suckered by the hoax. This demonstrates how easily information can be manipulated or falsified on the Internet.
Korea is the world leader in Internet infrastructure, with 95 percent of its households using high-speed broadband. The Web has become an integral part of daily life in the country, allowing easy use of government administrative services. Without the Internet, economic activities as well as leisure would be impossible.
The growing importance of cyberspace, however, has also led to serious adverse effects. Teenagers were arrested Tuesday on the charge of murdering a teenage girl and throwing her body into the Han River. They allegedly met the victim on the Internet and learned how to handle the body and get rid of it through online searches. The Internet was thus used as a means to commit a crime.
Malicious messages posted under the guise of anonymity undermine peoples reputations, causing certain victims to commit suicide. When the candlelight protests against the resumption of U.S. beef imports raged two years ago, false postings with pictures spread on the Internet. They said police assaulted protesters and riot police strangled a female college student to death. On the sinking of the South Korean naval patrol ship Cheonan, experts spread groundless rumors that the ship sank after being stranded, was destroyed due to fatigue, or was mistakenly bombed by U.S. forces. In the past, newspapers and broadcasters identified the authenticity of news and information and sifted through them. With the number of reckless Internet media and sites increasing, however, the Internet has earned the unenviable nickname of information sewer.
Certain groups argue that the Internet is an area of extraterritorial jurisdiction or a free zone by defending online defamation or data manipulation as freedom of expression. Neither the Constitution nor the law allows unlimited freedom of expression, however. Given the powerful influence and ripple effects of the Internet, calls are growing to have those guilty of online defamation or information manipulation face harsh punishment.
The most recent issue of the diplomacy periodical Foreign Policy says the Internet was expected to open a new era of global peace by breaking national borders, but has instead fueled crime, terrorism and violence. Cyberspace has created a new venue for communication but whether this is democratic is unclear, it said. Efforts to mitigate the Webs adverse effects and encourage a sound online culture are badly needed. All of society should join forces to educate the younger generation on Internet ethics and prevent them from getting addicted to games. If nothing is done to clean up indecent Internet culture, the country will pay a high price.