firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
The legal economics of the malicious posting
Even though it was a summery indictment, the litigation of the malicious posters by the public prosecuting office was the right thing to do.
The malicious posters send e-mails and post slander and curses directed to certain articles, people and so on.
When curses and slander are used without censorship, people are increasingly tempted to cross the line to use the language. The internet is becoming a virtual rubbish site overflowing with coarse language. People who once thought using the internet space constructively would stay way from it: vice is being built on the place left by virtue.
Freedom of expression and press is important for three reasons. First, only when based on free expression and speech, our world may flourish with good information and opinions. Also, wrong doings can be pointed out and corrected through it. Lastly, freedom is needed for itself; people are born with a desire to express and speak. That desire is fulfilled on the basis that freedom of expression and speech is guaranteed.
However, freedom does not mean delinquency. Basically freedom is allowed to be expressed as long as it does not harm others. If pain is inflicted to others to bring freedom, that freedom cannot be justified. Curse, slander and insults are such acts --- acts that could cause serious psychological injury to others in exchange of slight psychological pleasure for oneself.
Of course, in the course of practicing freedom of speech sometimes it is unavoidable to hurt others (In fact freedom of speech tends to disturb people more than other types of freedom.) For example, publicizing someone's act of injustice will surely hurt the person. However, to publicize someone's act of injustice has a similar characteristic to punishing a criminal. Punishment to a crime cannot be regarded as infringing the rights of the criminal; nor is publicizing of an injustice. Actually, in the long run, it can contribute to greater happiness by deterring people from falling into the temptation of committing injustice.
Speeches and writing aimed to pinpoint whether someone is right and wrong can be regarded in this line. One may feel unpleasant or even offended when his/her speech, writing or action is subjected to someone's criticism. However, criticizing and probing should be accepted broad-mindedly as a process necessary to reach betterment in thoughts and practices.
Cursing and swearing do not share the same role with criticism and probing. They may give pleasure and excitement to the one who use them but hurt the one whom they are used upon. In fact, it is the nature of swearing that while the one that practices it intends to have the least burden while inflicting the maximum damage to the other's pride. Nothing beneficiary can be expected to society. Perhaps the person who throws slander and curses are on a way of his own destruction. Probably the aphorism in Talmud --- 'Words used to kill someone also kill the person who uses them.' --- is based on that.
The plague of malicious postings requires more than a broad mind; it results in monetary costs. According to a Yonhap News report, NHN, operator of the largest internet portal in Korea, Naver, has to employ 160 people to delete 7-8 thousand postings per day. The situation will be the same for other portals, although the amount may vary. Apart from large portals, those trying to popularize their websites must be bearing some costs incurring from erasing nuisance postings in someway. Thus, malicious posters not only cause mere 'dust storm' to the internet-environment but they actively pollute, the undoing of which, requires money as well as time.
Nevertheless, as civilians, we cannot do anything about the malicious postings but to delete them after --- we have no right to investigate while they are hiding under anonymity. This is why the malicious postings need to be dealt with by the public authority --- more so when they are groundless. We have the libel law (Article 311) under which acts of blaming and insulting publicly are punished. The present indictment on the malicious posting is base on that article.
Maybe the libel law drafted concerning the off-line world is not enough to handle malicious postings in the internet space. The anonymity in the internet allows one to be unabashed. In the real world, personal slanders are bound to cause retaliation. A person loses his own dignity as s/he uses swear words too. So, people tend to refrain themselves from swearing --- without needing to use legal deterrence.
Malicious internet posting is similar to assailing counterparts who are blind folded. With their identity unrevealed, the assailants can sputter out whatever words they want to --- without a shred of shame on themselves and the least regard to others. This provides the ground that the application of the law to this case needs to be harsher. As the self-control is weakened due to the anonymity, it should be re-enforced by a harsher law to some extent.
But the government involvement has to be always discreet. Excessive punishment, even when applied to libelous postings, may cause impediment on freedom of expression and press. The greatest danger that may come from government involvement lies on how an insult can be defined. If the libel charge were brought in simply when one feels insulted, freedom of the internet communication, which is heavily based on web posting and replying, would not be able to continue. But it is also difficult to make a generalization on what constitutes libel. Only detailed examination is required for each case.
The present case is important in this sense. The court should not stop at just dispensing penalties to those who are indicted, but should be able to draw a guideline, based on which what constitutes libel and what can't be judged. Without such a guideline, net-users could build a perception that posting to internet articles is a dangerous activity and even justifiable expression and communications may be hampered. We hope that the court will find a verdict as wise as Solomon's.
Wan-Jae Lee(Director of Planning Div., Center for Free Enterprise, email@example.com)