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Korea’s online trolls

Apr 14,2018
Three individuals under police investigation for an online campaign to defame the Moon Jae-in government turned out to be registered members of the ruling Democratic Party (DP).

The three came under investigation after the DP filed charges early this year against a torrent of negative posts on leading portal site Naver criticizing the government’s decision in January to field a joint South and North Korean team in the women’s ice hockey category after Pyongyang offered to send athletes and participants to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

The three people are accused of trying to manipulate public opinion by clicking “likes” on critical posts using over 600 IDs with the help of program that allowed a series of clicks and keyboard strokes at timed intervals.

The accused claim they merely tested out macro techniques to check if the conservative front was behind the negative campaign. There was one testimony that the stunt was carried out to put the blame on the conservative front.

But their preparations were too organized to be taken lightly. The three were from the same workplace and co-managed an online community championing fairer economic practices. They discussed their scheme in their office in Paju, Gyeonggi.

They exchanged communications through the encrypted messaging platform Telegram. When their office was raided last month, they threw away USBs and destroyed evidence. The company registered as a publisher is suspected of being a shell company as it had not published anything. All the circumstances suggest they could not have acted alone.

Whether it is by conservatives or liberals, any attempt to sway public opinion is a serious crime. The incident must be thoroughly investigated. The police said it will probe whether the acts were organized beyond an individual level.

The opposition has likened the affair to the National Intelligence Service coming under fire for its organized online campaign to help former ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye in the 2012 elections.

The DP, which reported the case, is dumbfounded to discover the acts were carried out by its own members.

Law enforcement must identify who was behind the scheme so that no one dares manipulate public opinion through social and online media.

JoongAng Sunday, April 14, Page 34