YouTube's Korean site no longer allows users to create accounts, upload videos and post comments, after a local law started to require popular web sites to ask for the real names of their users.
"In a surprise decision Thursday, Google blocked South Korean users from uploading videos and posting comments on YouTube's Korean-language site in order to avoid government requirements for the real-name registration of users. Korean Internet users now have to submit their resident registration codes, the Korean equivalent of social security numbers, and names, before posting files or commenting on Web sites with more than 100,000 daily visitors, including YouTube. The new rules kicked in April 1, but Google had been refusing to enforce real-name verification for YouTube users, reluctant to bend its rules only for Korea," reports KoreaTimes.
Apparently, one of the reasons for enforcing this law was to discourage the anonymous comments that make personal attacks to public figures. "The purpose of this mandate could be pretty noble - to discourage those dangerous evil trollings. But what if the government starts to use this feature to hunt down whoever makes anti-government-ish comments (whose definition can sometimes be blurry)? Or use this mandate as a way to deter people from making any criticism on the current government," asks Web 2.0 Asia.
YouTube suggests users that want to upload videos and post comments to change their country setting.
"Google Korea has ... always (taken) the stance that Google respects local law/regulation but at the same time we continue trying to promote freedom of speech on the Internet," Google spokeswoman Lois Kim said last month. Of course, it's easier for Google to protect the freedom of speech in Korea, where its services aren't very popular, than in countries like China or Germany.