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Internet Censorship in South Korea

Repressive new internet censorship law


Eavesdropping on Eve's porn habits...

Korea steps up its internet censorship by breaking into https packets

Link Here 22nd February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in South Korea...Repressive new internet censorship law
South Korea will expand its site blocking measures with SNI eavesdropping, so HTTPS sites can be blocked as well. The new measure, which will also affect pirate sites, has generated widespread opposition. While it's more effective than standard DNS blocking, it's certainly not impossible to circumvent.

When it comes to pirate site blocking, South Korea is one of the most proactive countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Pirate website blocking orders are sanctioned by the Korean Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), which also oversees other blocking efforts, including those targeted at porn or illegal gambling sites.

While the ISP blockades work well for regular HTTP sites, they are fairly easy to bypass on HTTPS connections, something most sites offer today. For this reason, the Korean authorities are now stepping up their blocking game. This week the Government announced that it will start eavesdropping on SNI fields , which identify the hostname of the target server. This allows ISPs to see which HTTPS sites users are trying to access, so these can be blocked if they're on the Korean blocklist.

The new measures will apply to 895 foreign websites that are linked to porn, gambling or copyright infringement.

The new blocking policy is meeting quite a bit of resistance locally. A petition that was launched earlier this week has been signed by over 180,000 people already and this number is growing rapidly. The petition warns that this type of censorship is limiting freedom of expression. At the same time, however, it notes that people will find ways to bypass the blockades.

SNI eavesdropping and blocking is useless when people use a VPN. In addition, more modern browsers and companies such as Cloudflare increasingly support encrypted SNI (ESNI). This prevents ISPs from snooping on SNI handshakes.




Update: Korean government blasts Tumblr...

Tumblr rejects 22,000 censorship requests from South Korea's internet censor

Link Here 25th September 2017
Full story: Internet Censorship in South Korea...Repressive new internet censorship law
South Korea's internet censor made a large amount of censorship requests to the social network Tumblr but these were turned down on the grounds that the 'offending' posts did not actually violate Tumblr's policies.

Tumblr received 22,468 requests from the Korean government from January to June to delete posts related to prostitution and porn.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), the country's internet censor, sent 30,200 requests to several internet companies to delete posts related to prostitution and porn. Requests to Tumblr accounted for over two-thirds, totalling 22,468. By comparison, Twitter received 1,771, Instagram 12, and Facebook 5.

Tumblr rejected the requests to censor adult content saying that it had no physical presence in South Korea and was not subject to local laws. It also said it allows wide-range freedom of expression on its service. The company also said posts reported by KCSC didn't violate its policy.



Update: More internet censorship in the name of gambling prohibition...

South African government decides to maintain ban of online casino gambling

Link Here7th April 2016
Full story: Internet Censorship in South Korea...Repressive new internet censorship law
After a long debate, the South African government has decided to maintain its prohibition of online casino gambling. This was revealsed in a policy document released by the Department of Trade and Industry.

South Africa allows online sports betting though, and this will be allowed to continue. Now National Gambling Act amendments will order ISPs to ban all access to casino websites and forbid financial institutions to process any banking transactions. Enforcement responsibilities will be undertaken by the National Gambling Regulator.



Update: Real Problems...

South Korean law requiring verified real names for website comments is struck down

Link Here 1st September 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in South Korea...Repressive new internet censorship law

A law requiring South Korea's internet users to use their real names on websites has been struck down by a panel of judges.

The country's Constitutional Court said the rule restricted freedom of speech and undermined democracy.

The requirement was introduced in 2007 supposedly to tackle cyber-bullying. But the judges said users had switched to overseas sites where they continued to conceal their identity, putting local services at a disadvantage. There had also been complaints that the system had made it easier for cybercriminals to commit identity theft.

The internet real-name system stipulated that news media sites with more than 100,000 visitors a day had to record the real identities of visitors who had posted comments.

The idea behind the law was that users' details could be disclosed if the victims of malicious reports wanted to sue for libel or infringement of privacy. But the eight judges unanimously voted against the law saying the public gains achieved had not been substantial enough to justify restrictions on individuals' rights to free speech. They said that the policy discouraged people from criticising influential people and groups because of fears they would be punished.


21st March

Heads in the Cloud...

South Korea proposes measures to further restrict access to internet porn

The South Korean government has proposed further measures to prevent teenagers from easy access to pornographic websites and adult content on mobile phones.

Social security numbers will no longer be used for the age verification needed to view adult content. Social security numbers have been frequently stolen and used by teenagers to gain access to pornographic sites.

Instead, credit card numbers and an Internet personal identification number called i-PIN will be used for online identification from August.

The government will also distribute software that will block access to adult content on smartphones within the first half of the year as well as a content-filtering program that will recognize adult material by analyzing colors and sounds of the content and turn them off by default, according to officials.

The government plans to make it mandatory for all online file-storage companies, dubbed webhard services in Korea, to be equipped with content blocking programs. Webhard services have been regarded as the main source for teenagers downloading adult content.

The government will also increase penalties for internet porn related offences.


20th January

 Offsite: Lessons Learnt...

South Korea to end compulsory registration of internet forum users

See article from


7th December

Update: Reviewers or Censors?...

South Korea plans to step up censorship of social networks and apps

South Korea plans to step up its censorship of its social networking sites and smart phone applications.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission said it will reshuffle departments to make way for a 'review' team that will oversee new media content.

The censorship of traditional Internet content has been in place since 2008.

Social media users and civic groups decried the announcement, saying it clamps down on freedom of expression.

This is an authoritarian and anachronistic abuse of power that strips people of their freedom of expression and political freedom by blocking their eyes and ears, one of South Korea's largest civic organizations, People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, said in a news release.

So far internet censorship has been minimal with 45 cases deemed illegal for obscenity this year, along with 159 deemed to have breached national security.


7th October

Registered as Knee Jerks...

Actress suicide spurs further repression of Korean forum posters

The suicide of iconic actress Choi Jin-sil has policymakers moving quickly to strengthen identity verification at South Korean websites supposedly to discourage cyber bullying and malicious online messages.

The 40-year-old Choi, one of the country's most popular entertainers of the past two decades, was found dead at her home in southern Seoul in an apparent suicide, and family members and friends claim she had been distressed from harassment on the Internet.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the country's broadcasting and telecommunications regulator, said Internet users will be required to confirm their identity to post comments or participate in online discussions at popular Web sties starting next month.

This means that users will have to type in their resident registration numbers, a 13-digit code that indicates birth date, sex and registration site,  or I-PIN numbers, a personal identification code for online use, to leave messages.

The identity verification system is already mandated to 37 of the biggest Internet portals and online news sites that have more than 200,000 visitors in daily traffic. The KCC is looking to expand the rules to sites with more than 100,000 visitors, whose number currently reaches 178 sites.

The operators of the Web sites will be required to disclose the identities of bloggers accused of cyber attacks on request of police or victims seeking legal action, government officials said.

It could be said that the system will be expanded to virtually all, commonly used Web sites that have message boards,' said Kim Yeong-joo, an official from KCC's network ethics team. Granting approval by the Cabinet, the new regulations will kick in sometime in November, Kim said.

And the KCC plans to rewrite the telecommunications law to mandate Web sites to immediately pull any articles deemed as slanderous for a minimum 30 days before arbitration were subjected to heated debate among lawmakers.



5th September

Registered as Repressive...

South Korea keen to register forum contributors

A draft law pushed by the Korean Communication Commission (KCC), the country's telecommunication and broadcasting regulator, that imposes strengthened identification policies for Internet users is sparking widespread protests from the public and media.

The revised bill mandates all Internet sites with more than 100,000 daily visitors to verify the identities of their users.

This is a stronger version of the current telecommunications law that imposes identity verification for sites with more than 300,000 visitors.

The designated sites require subscribers to submit their private information such as I-PIN, an alternative identification system for online users, and also reveal their real name or register nicknames when they post comments.

Internet companies must disclose the identities of the users accused of cyber attacks when victims seek to sue for libel or privacy infringement.

Following a review by the Regulatory Reform Committee (RRC), the KCC is expecting the revised law to be enforced as early as October.

The KCC hired a group of 10 people, including industry experts and scholars, for a project to research the impact of the strengthened identity verification system. However, despite the group having yet to produce a study, regulators are fast-tracking the bill anyway.

The government, which first introduced the identity verification policy last year, claims that the measures are essential to curb cyber attacks and other 'negative online behavior'.

However, critics argue that the revised law is a strong threat to the freedom of speech on the Internet and could be abused as a tool for censorship.

Another controversial provision of the KCC bill is the mandating of portals to suspend the publishing of articles deemed fraudulent or slanderous for a minimum of 30 days while a media arbitration body rules on the legitimacy of the complaints. For example, should a blogger or online journalist write a post criticizing the government, the new rules will have Web sites immediately pull the articles for a month if they receive a complaint.

Due to the unclear definition of cyber bullying and malicious online messages, there is a danger that authorities might use their power arbitrarily, critics said.

The KCC admits that the identity verification system has so far had a limited impact on curbing cyber bullying since its introduction in July last year, saying that the number of 'malicious' messages reduced by only about 2%.

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