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Legislation to Keep Internet Portals in Check

Posted May. 16, 2007 07:52,   


There are mounting voices calling for restrictions on Internet portal sites, which are often described as “irresponsible powers” in cyberspace.

Following the lead of government authorities, which recently launched investigations into portals, politicians have also acknowledged need for legislation of new laws in line with the new Internet information environment as the current legal institutions have limitations to keep the all-powerful portals in check.

Portals, whose daily Internet users amount to millions, are failing to address related issues such as invasion of privacy or copyright infringement due to loopholes in legal system. Against this backdrop, such moves come out of the notion that portals in Korea dodge responsibility while enjoying all the benefits, unlike the situation in other countries.

Grand National Party lawmaker Jin Soo-hee of the National Policy Committee in the National Assembly held a panel discussion for the legislation of a “law on search service providers (portals)” at Lawmakers’ Hall, Yeouido, Seoul yesterday.

The GNP lawmaker pointed out that the current legal system hardly provides measures to counter a set of problems ranging from unfair trade by portal operators, defamation, and copyright infringement, to the spread of pornographic and illicit videos.

The so-called “portal law” proposed in the discussion aims to introduce a portal service provider registration system, mandate automatic search services to prevent artificial intervention in search results, prohibit portals from making illegitimate requests for fair trade, install a reporting tool for immediate resolution of various issues, including libel, and require advertisement displays to avoid confusion between informational articles and advertisements.

In response, portals, including NHN and Daum Communications, resisted the idea, saying the legislation undermines free competition and is even unconstitutional.

However, public opinions to address the adverse effects of portals are gaining traction.

Attorney Jeong Hae-deok, a participant in a panel discussion on large-scale portal service providers held at Lawmakers’ Hall in February, expressed his concern that portals are engaging in unfair trade with their dominant market power, as some of them demand content providers to offer content free of charge.

The government has begun to take action against the issue.

The Fair Trade Commission launched field investigations related to collusive activities and unfair trade by portals on May 9.

The Korea Communications Commission said yesterday that it is reviewing whether major portals abused their power in trading with contents providers, or if they were short on user protection, particularly regarding teenagers.

The National Tax Service is also conducting a tax probe into Naver, Korea’s No.1 portal service provider.

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