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Naver limits ‘likes’ and comments on news stories

Apr 26,2018
Naver, Korea’s top internet portal, overhauled the way users can comment on news after it found itself at the center of a public opinion manipulation scandal.

The overhaul includes limits on the number of comments that can be submitted by a single account on a particular article per day. The changes took effect immediately.

But the company refused to shut down its unique news section platform that encourages users to read articles supplied by different news outlets and leave comments. There have been growing demands from conservative political factions and the general public that Naver should only offer links to news articles, which would take users off the Naver website and to the site of the media organization responsible for the story.

They are also criticizing Naver’s growth into a powerful, quasi-media organization.

Some of the other new measures that went into effect Wednesday include limits to the number of “likes” and “dislikes” that one account can register on a news article to 50 a day. Previously there was no ceiling.

Also, a particular account will only be allowed to make three comments per article a day. Previously, each account was allowed to leave up to 20 comments on each article per day.

If a user wants to leave a series of comments on an article, he or she will have to wait at least 60 seconds between the comments, up from the current 10 seconds. If a user wants to leave several likes or dislikes, a hiatus of 10 seconds is now in place. Previously there was none.

Naver said a panel of users it organized in March to discuss better ways to handle the comments section came up with the measures after the company was embroiled in a public opinion manipulation scandal that blew up.

“We will continue making efforts to find social consensus in online communication with the user panel so that Naver can be reborn into a space where users can make various thoughts and voices in the comments section,” said the company in a statement.

The measures came 10 days after a political blogger known by the nickname Druking was found to have orchestrated online campaigns in favor of and against President Moon Jae-in. He allegedly employed an army of allies and macro software to make an overwhelming number of likes on particular stories and post a slew of comments. That affected the order of the comments on the article.

But Naver is still discussing what to do about the order of comments issue, the system’s “fundamental value” and other problems. It promised further changes in mid-May.

Making the identities of users leaving comments more transparent and limiting likes and dislikes further are also being discussed, according to the company, which has the 11th largest market capitalization on Korea’s main stock exchange.

Tens of lawmakers from the opposition Liberty Korea Party Wednesday morning gathered in front of Naver headquarters in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, and urged prosecutors to launch an investigation into the portal operator.

“Even forgetting about the group led by Druking, Naver is never free from the crime of swaying public opinion,” said Kim Seong-tae, a floor leader, in a meeting with Naver CEO Han Seong-sook. He went on to demand Naver introduce a system of only offering links to news stories.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]