Searching for Reason on the Internet

      June 01, 2007 06:16

      This reporter has been conducting an online war against an invisible porno hacker lately. The hacker showed up about a month ago on chosun.com, and since then he's been posting pop-up banners promoting pornographic DVDs almost every day. Naturally we keep deleting the banners and rejecting his log-on, but soon after he will create a new log-on and post more pornographic banners. It's like he's deliberately trying to make us angry. The hacker creates log-ons using the real names of about four or five people a month to post his banners, and the victims whose identities have been stolen may never know about it. These days, when anybody can find hundreds of resident registration numbers and names with a simple Google search, it is this reporter, sadly, who is the loser in this online war.

      This reporter was also frustrated by another case of Internet abuse. It happened on the "N" website, in a section with flash animation games for elementary schoolchildren. When I clicked on the button "Recommended Flash Games", the screen suddenly filled with games with titles like "Strip or Die", "Adam and Eve", "Fit It to Your Breast Size", and "Stripping Tournament." Games with animations that would make even adults blush have been made readily available to elementary schoolchildren with no filtering at all. One particular adult game had already been played by more than 200,000 users. These kinds of services don't require any user ID or authentication. I was infuriated.

      Stolen content is also upsetting Internet reporters these days. With so many websites filled with stolen content, it's almost too much for copyright holders to deal with. Type in "Chosun Ilbo editorials" or "Chosun Ilbo Reporters' Memobooks" on Naver, the country's top search engine. Common sense would have you expect that the first links you see would point to the Chosun Ilbo's web pages. But the search results defy common sense, because the first links you see are for blogs or pages carrying stolen content lifted from the Chosun Ilbo's editorial and columns pages.

      Something strange has happened on the Internet. In many cases it seems real-world common sense is utterly abandoned when people go online. We have no way to locate and punish most hackers, despite the horrific pornographic spam they send to our children's e-mail boxes, despite the unfettered files floating around cyberspace with people's names, resident registration numbers, and cellphone numbers.

      And the public puts up with unreasonable excuses, like "We can't do anything because their servers are in foreign countries" or "That's how Internet search services work." Common sense is replaced with cynical resignation. "That's how the Internet works. There are many things that are worse than that."

      Since the mid-1990s when the Internet began to take off in Korea, a joke has circulated among Internet journalists. "If the government had started an Internet development department for Korea," the joke goes, "the Internet never would have developed in Korea." Over the past 10 or so years, Korea's Internet industry has progressed at the speed of light, thanks to an environment with few regulations, where young venture capitalists have enthusiastically toiled, and where consumers have eagerly adopted a variety of services. But I'm very fearful that the Internet, which has come so far, so quickly, may be reduced to a synonym for senselessness and unreasonableness.

      This column was contributed by Hwang Soon-hyun, from the Chosun Ilbo's Internet News Division.
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