Google Scales Back YouTube Korea

The country's "real-name" law requires the Web site to confirm the identity of people through personal information, such as their real names and resident registration numbers.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

April 13, 2009

2 Min Read

Google has shut down some of the features of YouTube Korea to avoid falling under a new South Korean law requiring people who post comments or upload content on the Web to use their real names.

The law passed by the South Korean National Assembly took effect April 1 and required Web sites to confirm the identity of people through personal information, such as their real names and resident registration numbers, The Hankyoreh newspaper reported. The law was passed as an amendment to Korea's Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and User Protection Act and applies to sites with at least 100,000 users per day.

To avoid being subjected to the law, YouTube Korea shut down its video upload and comment functions. "Because there is no upload function, users won't be required to confirm their identification," an April 9 notice on the Web site said.

On the same day, Rachel Whetstone, VP of global communications and public affairs at Google, said in a statement that the company decided to scale back YouTube Korea's functionality because "freedom of expression is the most important value to uphold on the Internet," according to Hankyoreh's translation of the statement, which was posted in Korean.

"We concluded in the end that it is impossible to provide benefits to Internet users while observing this country’s law because the law does not fall in line with Google’s principles," Whetstone said.

People using YouTube can register using an ID and password of their choosing, thereby allowing people to remain anonymous. While restricting use of YouTube Korea, Google has not blocked South Koreans or foreigners living in the country from accessing and uploading content to the main YouTube site.

Google is no stranger to dealing with legal issues in other nations. In launching Google Maps Street View in Britain last month, the search engine found itself denying that it had published street-level images of naked children.

China in March blocked access to YouTube from the Communist country, but gave no explanation. BBC news reports, however, said Chinese authorities wanted to prevent people in the country from seeing videos of Chinese soldiers beating monks and other Tibetans.

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