One theme in my Internet law class is the rise of the “bordered” web, the increasing influence of national governments over Internet architecture and online activity within their borders. I have assigned two excellent recent books that develop this theme, Who Controls the Internet? by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu and Larry Lessig’s Code V2.0. Code V2.0 is both new and old, being an update of Lessig’s 1999 Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, a book I’ve used since my first Internet law class in 2001. The original Code‘s insight that “left to itself, cyberspace will become a perfect tool of control” was a brilliantly prescient cold shower for utopians who believed the Internet would free humankind from the constraints of government. Its core insights remained vital but some parts of Code had become dated. I considered removing it from the required reading and relaying Lessig’s concepts through lectures until he published Code V2.0, which restates his themes for the cyberspace of today, and the next five years.
That is background for this very brief post, based on an article from the Korea Times. To curtail “rampant crimes in cyberspace conducted by anonymous attackers” the South Korean National Assembly passed a law in December that, come July, will require South Korean Internet users who “make online postings at local Web sites where more than 100,000 visit a day” to identify themselves with their real names. Internet sites that do not comply are subject to a fine of up to 30 million won ($32,014 at today’s exchange rate.) This law has provoked complaints that such data collection by web sites increases the risk of its misuse violates constitutional rights to free speech.
This is the bordered web at work: a national government indirectly regulating individual conduct (lawless anonymous posters) by passing a law directly regulating intermediaries (Internet portals).