Google's decision to bypass a new South Korean law by shutting off comments and video uploads on its YouTube Korea site appears to have seriously irked the Korean government. Korean paper Hankyoreh reports that the Korean government is considering some sort of legal action against Google (NSDQ: GOOG). The paper also says that a lawmaker told a National Assembly committee last week that Google was "speaking as though Korea is (a) backwards internet nation that is intensifying its internet censorship."
Google says it wrestled with how to comply with the law, which would have required it to collect the names and resident numbers of people who upload videos on YouTube Koreaand possibly hand that information over to the government. A Google spokeswoman told paidContent.org late last month that "Google respects local law/regulation but at the same time we continue trying to promote freedom of speech on the internet."
Ultimately, the company decided to get around the new regulations by limiting the features on its Korean website. Google also explained the move in a Korean blog post and shared a translation: "We believe that it is important for free expression that people have the right to remain anonymous if they choose."
It's unclear what legal action South Korea's government could take, although Hankyoreh quotes a Korea Communications Commission official as saying that the commission will be taking a close look for "illegal activities" at all of its South Korean services, not just YouTube.
A similar situation on the way in Germany? Germany is considering instituting a law even more stringent than the one Google is trying to sidestep in South Korea. NewTeeVee reports that conservative politicians there have proposed a law that would require not just commenters and video uploaders but also video viewers to register their name, address and federal ID card numbers on video sites in an effort to cut back on the number of violent videos online. Google's decision to circumvent the Korean law could create an awkward precedent in Germany since Google would seemingly have to pull down the entire site in that country order to get around the law.
By Joseph Tartakoff