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South Korea high court overturns real name requirement for posting online

The South Korean Constitutional Court [official website] on Thursday nullified a 2007 regulation that required South Koreans to use their real names in Internet forums. Under the terms of the regulation online discussion participants had to pass a verification process in order to express their opinions on most websites. The nine-justice court held [WSJ report] that the Real Name Verification Law amounted to prior restraint [Cornell LII backgrounder] that violated citizens' privacy. The court also found that the law did little to curb the anonymous online libel and defamation that it was established to reduce. The law was implemented after several prominent political and entertainment figures were targeted in anonymous online posts, to which authorities attributed several suicides. The Constitutional Court stated that harm resulting from online expression can be remedied through other existing laws providing for financial damages and criminal punishment.

Freedom of expression is an international concern. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report alleging that the government of Angola [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] is responsible for undermining freedom of speech protections [JURIST report] for its citizens, noting that the "political violence, intimidation of protesters, and crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations" might have a detrimental effect on the upcoming parliamentary election this month. In July HRW reported that a draft Iraqi cybercrime law would violate the international standards [JURIST report] protecting due process, freedom of speech and freedom of association, stating that the Information Crimes Law represents a tool for the Iraqi government to suppress dissidents, journalists and other human rights defenders who are increasingly utilizing the Internet for information and resources. Also in July the UN Human Rights Council [official website] passed the its first-ever resolution to protect the free speech of individuals online [JURIST report]. The resolution is written to guarantee Internet freedom, including the free flow of information and freedom of expression.

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