Google has disabled user uploads and comments on the Korean version of its YouTube video portal in reaction to a new law that requires the real name of a contributor be listed along each contribution they make.
The rules, part of a Cyber Defamation Law, came into effect on April 1 for all sites with over 100,000 unique visitors per day. It requires that users provide their real name and national ID card number.
In response to the requirements Google has stopped users from uploading via its Korean portal rather than start a new registration system.
We have a bias in favor of freedom of expression and are committed to openness, said Lucinda Barlow, a spokeswoman for YouTube in Asia: It's very important that if users want to be anonymous that they have that chance.
But while the move obeys the letter of the law it skirts around the spirit of it by allowing users based in South Korea to continue uploading and commenting on YouTube by switching their preference setting to a country other than Korea.
YouTube noted this work-around on its Korean Web site and any videos and comments contributed this way will still be seen by Internet users in the country.
The new law was rushed into force after the suicide of a popular actress in October focused attention on the problem of online bullying in the highly-connected country.
Already many major Korean portals and Web sites require users to provide their national ID card number when registering accounts.
YouTube has decided to adopt a widespread censorship rule to ban the promotion of hate speech. Google wrote:
Today, we're taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste,
religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.
However for all the Artificial Intelligence it has at its disposal the company cannot actually work out which videos promote hate speech. Instead it has taken to banning videos referencing more easily identifiable images such as Nazi symbology,
regardless of the context in which they are presented.
For example YouTube has blocked some British history teachers from its service for uploading archive material related to Adolf Hitler.
Scott Allsopp, who owns the longrunning MrAllsoppHistory revision website and teaches at an international school in Romania, had his channel featuring hundreds of historical clips on topics ranging from the Norman conquest to the cold war deleted
for breaching the rules that ban hate speech. Allsopp commented:
It's absolutely vital that YouTube work to undo the damage caused by their indiscriminate implementation as soon as possible. Access to important material is being denied wholesale as many other channels are left branded as promoting hate when
they do nothing of the sort.
While previous generations of history students relied on teachers playing old documentaries recorded on VHS tapes on a classroom television, they now use YouTube to show raw footage of the Nazis and famous speeches by Adolf Hitler.
Richard Jones-Nerzic, another British teacher affected by the crackdown, said that he had been censured for uploading clips to his channel from old documentaries about the rise of Nazism. Some of his clips now carry warnings that users might find
the material offensive, while others have been removed completely. He said he was appealing YouTube's deletion of archive Nazi footage taken from mainstream media outlets, arguing that this is in itself form of negationism or even holocaust
Allsopp had his account reinstated on Thursday following an appeal but said he had been contacted by many other history teachers whose accounts have also been affected by the ban on hate speech. Users who do not swiftly appeal YouTube's decisions
could find their material removed for good.