Blocking Twitter/Facebook Not the Answer

The South Korean government’s blocking of the newly created North Korean Twitter and Facebook sites has been attracting interest in South Korean society, especially among its netizens.

The South Korean government blocked the accounts, it said, to stop North Korean cyber propaganda and the slandering of South Korea, on the basis that it cannot allow such blunt praise of North Korea to stand.

The Ministry of Unification also said that it asked the Korea Communications Commission to block the accounts because they violate South Korea’s National Security Law.

However, using Twitter and/or Facebook to propagandize the North Korean system and defame South Korea has very considerable limits. Twitter messages are exceedingly short, customarily one sentence in length, and so it is impossible to publish a lot of information or carry much detail. Substantive propaganda can only pursued through links, but most of the linked web sites are already blocked.

Additionally, if so inclined, overseas internet users can always ‘retweet’ North Korea’s propaganda tweets. What’s more, those people who access their Twitter accounts by iPhone have unrestricted access to the North Korean accounts anyway. For these reasons, blocking the North Korean Twitter account does not have much practical value.

Facebook is a slightly more effective tool of propaganda, since it can carry longer videos and propaganda materials, and photos can be uploaded easily.

However, that may not be important in any case, since a lot of internet users do not think it really matters and certainly show no signs of falling for the North Korean claims.

One blogger wrote on his blog, “No offense to North Korea, but, with the exception of a very small minority, nobody believes any of its propaganda. If they do not swiftly recognize that this is an age where propaganda doesn’t work, they will lose a great deal.”

He emphasized, “There is no point North Korea pursuing propaganda in South Korea when the North Koreans are starting to feel hostility towards their own system; North Korea needs to know that propaganda only works in a limited field, and that already limited field is gradually shrinking.”

Many other South Korean internet users have reacted negatively to the South Korean government’s blocking of the North Korean propaganda.

One netizen wrote, “This was an inevitable measure in a divided Korea, but we are living in a modern democratic society which pursues diversity. I think blocking was not the best way to handle this. These North Korean actions might become a trap that will hold them back.”

“It is amusing to read their posts because they’re not filtered, unlike those filtered by news reports or newspaper articles,” the writer added.

Another internet user said, “A healthy ecosystem is not a zoo with bars. The wide open Serengeti is. The internet is just like that. I don’t understand why sophisticated South Korean internet users are not allowed to read their propaganda materials.”

He added, “If the government allows internet users to have access to the propaganda materials, those materials can be reproduced as parody. It can embarrass North Korea. Let’s just open up and let people enjoy.”

Some internet users are treating the whole situation as a joke.

One wrote a comment on the North Korean Facebook page that said, “Kim Jong Il needs to play Farmville. Playing Farmville might help him think of ways to feed his people.”

Farmville is an online farm management game played via Facebook.

Others are just angry. One Facebook user scrawled, “Death to the entire Kim Jung Il dynasty, can’t wait till u die (sic).”

However, while North Korea’s cyber propaganda and defamatory comments are a joke and the subject of overseas and domestic satire, there is a serious side in terms of the South Korean government’s relationship with its people.

One North Korea expert from the U.S, Michael Breen, pointed out in a Christian Science Monitor piece on the 20th, “It shows they don’t trust their own people. In a democracy, citizens should be allowed to make up their minds about dictatorship. There’s always been this fear that people, if exposed to North Korea, will fall for it.”

Another expert, author Andrew Salmon, agrees, calling the South Korean move “ridiculous,” and adding, “This seems to be a holdover from the authoritarian governments of the past. The best they could do would be to lift all restrictions, exposing to the South Korean people how groundless it is.”