SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Korea Bizwire) – The ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Tuesday vowed to legislate a set of bills that would increase the burden of responsibility of news media, internet portals, YouTubers and bloggers for fake or false news.
“We decided to push for legislation under the principle that news media and internet portals should be included among the subjects of punitive compensation,” DP spokesman Rep. Choi In-ho told reporters after a meeting of the party’s task force on media reform.
The party will make efforts to get the relevant bills passed at the National Assembly this month, he added.
Earlier, the task force selected six bills — including one seeking to allow a victim of fraudulent or illegitimate information circulated online to sue those responsible for the information’s spreading for triple the amount of indemnity allowed under current law — for the party’s supreme council to push to legislate in the ongoing monthlong extra parliamentary session.
The governing party currently commands 174 of the 300 parliamentary seats.
The legislative initiative came as whirlwinds of unfounded claims or rumors circulated on YouTube, social media networks and the internet have posed a major challenge to administering state affairs, such as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as safeguarding the privacy of individuals.
During a party supreme council meeting last week, DP Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon described fake news and other reports with “malicious” intent as “anti-social crimes,” vowing to legislate related acts during the February parliamentary session.
“It is unavoidable to take the minimum necessary actions to safeguard the rights and honor of the people and maintain society’s safety and trust,” Lee said, instructing the party task force to get the bills passed through the National Assembly.
The six bills under consideration propose revising the promotion of information and communications networks act, the press arbitration act and the criminal act, respectively, in a bid to clamp down on fake news and boost compensations to victims for damage incurred by such unfounded reports.
One of the bills — a revision to the press arbitration act — seeks to enable blocking press reports on the internet if they are found to have inflicted damage through online news circulation.
Another proposed revision to the criminal act aims to newly include television and other broadcasters among those to be punished along with newspaper and magazine publishers and radio broadcasters if found guilty of defamation.
Unarguably, the most controversial of the six bills is a revision to the communications networks act proposed by Rep. Yoon Young-chan.
The bill seeks to allow a victim of fraudulent or illegitimate information circulated online to sue those responsible for the information’s spreading for triple the amount of indemnity allowed under current law as part of “punitive” accumulated compensation.
At the center of the party’s debate on the bill has been whether news outlets and internet portals should be also among those to be regulated by the proposed legislation.
The bill previously targeted YouTubers or other internet users, but the party task force decided Tuesday to include news outlets and internet portals among the subjects of the proposed act.
Opposition parties, including the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), however, vehemently denounced the legislation drive as aimed at “gagging” the news media.
“What the DP describes as a reform only intends to cut out the arms and legs of those they don’t like and gas them,” PPP spokesperson Kim Ye-ryeong said last week.
Even if the bills are passed into law as the DP plans, however, they are expected to leave too much room for dispute when it comes to implementation as the proposals left the critical question of how to define fake news unanswered.
An official at the party task force said it will seek a separate law on how to define fake news over the long run in accordance with the due procedures under the National Assembly Act, leaving the issue up to further discussion in the future.