SNS

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Social networking service (SNS, 소셜네트워크 서비스) means an online service, platform, or website that helps users to build and reflect social networks or relations among people, who have common thoughts, interests and/or intention to do something. A social network service consists of a user's profile, his/her social links and a variety of additional services.

The social networking services are mainly categorized into common places (such as school year or classmates), common interests with friends (usually with self-description pages), and a trustworthy recommendation system. With Facebook and Twitter widely used worldwide, I-Love-School, CyWorld started their own social networking services in 1999, followed by Nate, Me2day, etc. in Korea.

Contents

Key words

social networks, social commerce, location-based information, privacy

SNS and Marketing

Few social networks currently charge money for membership. Companies such as MySpace and Facebook sell online advertising on their site. Their business model is based upon large membership count, and charging for membership would be counterproductive. Some believe that the deeper information that the sites have on each user will allow much better targeted advertising than any other site can currently provide.

Social networks operate under an autonomous business model, in which a social network's members serve dual roles as both the suppliers and the consumers of content. This is in contrast to a traditional business model, where the suppliers and consumers are distinct agents. Revenue is typically gained in the autonomous business model via advertisements, but subscription-based revenue is possible when membership and content levels are sufficiently high.

SNS and Social Commerce

The location services of SNS is widely used in e-Commerce. Recently, online shopping mall is proposing a half price to group purchasers via Facebook, KakaoTalk, etc. in a limited period of time. This trend is largely termed as "social commerce"

Today, the area of social commerce has been expanded to include the range of social media tools and content, especially in the fashion and dining-out industries. Examples of social commerce include customer ratings and reviews, user recommendations and referrals, social shopping tools (sharing the act of shopping online), forums and communities, social media optimization, social applications and social advertising.

Legal Aspects of SNS

What social networking services are concerned about in legal terms is privacy, consumer protection, freedom of speech, etc.

SNS-related privacy issues have been raised growing concerns among users on the dangers of giving out too much personal information to others. Users of these services also need to be aware of data theft. In addition, there is a perceived privacy threat in relation to placing too much personal information in the hands of large corporations or governmental bodies, allowing a profile to be produced on an individual's behavior on which decisions, detrimental to an individual, may be taken.

In Korea, however, social networking services are often used for the support or denial of specific political party or candidate, and it often conflicts with the Election Act producing a number of violators.[1] In March 2011, Rep. Chung Dong-young of the main opposition Democratic Unity Party, together with 146 other lawmakers and citizens, filed a petition with the court, arguing prohibiting pre-election campaigning through SNS was unconstitutional on grounds that the National Election Commission’s interpretation of "other material" was too broad and vague so that its decision to crack down on SNS electioneering infringed upon the freedom of expression.

SNS and Politics

The Constitutional Court ruled that the current Election Act prohibiting pre-election campaigning via Twitter and other social networking services (SNS) was unconstitutional.[2]

"The Internet is open to everyone and electioneering in cyberspace is virtually costless. So, restricting online campaigning does not serve the purpose of the Election Act, which is supposed to bridge the gap in election campaigns between rich and poor candidates. . . The Act overly restricts fundamental human rights. . . Banning people from expressing their views on the Internet for such a long period of time deprives them of opportunities to criticize policies of the government and political parties. This clearly weakens the principles of the parliamentary system that realizes party politics and responsible politics."

Its ruling paves the way for SNS users, largely in their 20s and 30s, to freely express their views on certain political parties and candidates in the general and presidential elections. The ruling is widely expected to provide a boost to liberal camp candidates. Six of the court’s justices ruled against Article 93 of the Act,[3] with two ruling in favor.[4]

SNS as influential political leverage

The SNS impact in politics was proved in the Seoul mayoral by-election in October 2011. The emerging tool prompted many voters to head for voting stations at the last minute giving social activist Park Won-soon an easy victory. Against this backdrop, an increasing number of politicians have begun to turn to SNS platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to reach out to voters ahead of two key elections in 2012.[5]

Controversy is flaring up over a recent cyber attack on the NEC website on day of the by-election allegedly involving aides of the ruling party. All these show the influence of SNS in politics. In 2011, several Korean judges caused controversies by posting political messages on their social networking sites, such as Facebook and/or Twitter. The Supreme Court referred one case to the judicial ethics committee to determine whether the judge breached the judicial code of conduct. It was also known that the Court would consider whether guidelines regarding the use of SNS by judges should be established.[6]

Pros and Cons of SNS

SNS has its merits in enhancing the development of participatory democracy. People don’t have to rely on traditional media to set agendas. Instead, they can do it by themselves. SNS allows ordinary people to be a one-man medium sending their messages simultaneously to many people.

But analysts worry about distortion of views made through SNS. It's because people started expressing their political views with no factual background through SNS. So the decisions made through the networks can easily lead to undesirable results. Some worry about the dominance of public opinion by small number of progressives. Also users of SNS tend to be impromptu in making decisions.[7] In turn, the agenda set through SNS tend to be subjective rather than being objective.[8] It is questionable that public opinion from SNS represents the rank and file of the society.

It is also undeniable that SNS users are not so sensitive to their privacy that they are usually prone to data leakage and slip-of-thumb errors. Some celebrities including politicians fell victim to their own messages unintentionally exchanged in the past.[9]

Unlikely Self-regulation in the Cyberspace

Cyberspace once considered a private space is now perceived as public due to its huge influence.

People agree that freedom of speech should be respected, especially on cyber networks where people can freely offer opinions as never before. But people began to cast doubts on the use of new media with political motives with regard to the possible distortion of truth and indiscrete criticism against politicians.

Someone say that self-regulation should be prioritized in solving the problems in SNS. If it doesn’t work, it is necessary to punish irregularities based on the current Public Office Election Act by making it clearer and broader.[10]

Limits of SNS

Despite political parties’ reliance on the use of SNS in elections, analysts say that the tool itself can always change and that it is not at the essence of winning the hearts of the public.[11] Negative campaigning such as rumors of competitors' concubinage, tax evasion, military service-dodging sons, makeshift transfer of address, etc. is considered one of the key strategies in winning elections, especially in Korea, as witnessed in the past decades. But it is wrong to win elections only through criticizing others because such propaganda used to result in punishment like a boomerang.

The first election after the Constitutional Court's ruling, the general election on April 11, 2012, showed that the ruling Saenuri Party won 152 seats of the 300-member National Assembly. It was contrary to general expectation that the increase of voting ratio from 46.1 percent in 2008 to 54.3 percent this time could be unfavorable to the ruling party. In fact, the more young voters cast their votes, the more opposition representatives would be elected.

In conclusion, the opposition group seemed to prevail only in the cyberspace represented by SNS and popcast, not the real world. It's because the SNS users are fond of networking of, and communication among, a same kind of people like birds of a feather. But some analysts anticipate a different outcome in the presidential election with election issues focused on a few things.

Privacy issues

It is undeniable that SNS users are not so sensitive to their privacy. They used to give their private information such as national ID numbers, and home and email addresses to most local websites. The Korean government requires citizens to use their real names when posting comments or video clips on Korean-based websites.

It is frequently reported that some celebrities fell victim to SNS account thieves who wrongfully disseminate false statements about the account holder. In fact, SNS-related privacy issues have raised concerns among users on the dangers of giving out too much personal information to others.

Now the Korea Communications Commission (KCC, 방송통신위원회) in charge of broadcasting and communications policy-making is waging a campaign “Be aware of your privacy when using SNS.” The KCC is proposing some privacy guidelines via the online poll. For example, the guidelines for SNS users include “Be selective of your personal information being posted on the SNS”, “Be careful of posting or forwarding friend’s personal data”, “Turn off the location function when not in use because your location can be easily tracked by unwanted merchants” and so on.

In addition, there is a perceived threat to privacy because placing too much personal information in the hands of big corporations or governmental agencies could lead to unwanted commercial promotion or ideological censorship.

Digital inheritance issue

Is it possible for a survivor to manage the SNS account or Website of the deceased?
No, it is prohibited by the relevant law because the SNS/portal operator should not provide any personal information to a third party without the data subject's consent. So some of the celebrities' Websites remain as a "Memorial site" (추모사이트, 분향소) for the deceased star.[12]

Under the current law, it is not allowed for survivors to inherit or succeed the digital properties including e-mail accounts even though valuable game items or intellectual properties are contained therein.[13]

In this connection, Google's new service called "Interactive Account Manager" allows users to set a “timeout period” of inactivity. Google will send an alert one month before the inactivity deadline via text or email. If Google hasn’t received a response from you by the time of the inactivity deadline, users can either choose to delete their data, or send it to up to ten “trusted contacts.” Users can choose to send or delete data from some or all of a number of Google services including Gmail, Blogger, Pages and Streams, YouTube, Google Voice, Google Plus and Picasa.[14]

References

  1. Those who violate the law could have faced up to two years in jail or a maximum 4-million won fine.
  2. Constitutional Court Decision 2007Hun-Ma1001 delivered on December 29, 2011.
  3. This article forbids the public posting of advertisements, posters, photos, documents and other material, which support or oppose certain political parties and candidates for 180 days leading up to elections. The National Election Commission (NEC) had interpreted that SNS is included in "other material" of Article 93.
  4. The court’s ruling came weeks after the prosecution said it would investigate Kim Je-dong, a popular TV personality, for a violation of the law by posting messages calling for his followers to exercise their voting rights in the Seoul mayoral elections in October. Korea Times, "Twitter electioneering ruled constitutional", December 29, 2011.
  5. Korea Times, "SNS emerges as influential political leverage", December 30, 2011.
  6. Noh Dong-Ill, "Judges and Social Networking Services", Kyung Hee Law Journal Vol.47 No.2 (2012.6.30), pp.9-46.
  7. The mega-hit success of "Broken Arrow", a film criticizing injustice in the court proceedings, might be a good example.
  8. Apostle Paul said that, without the knowledge of God, gossips are generated out of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. Romans 1:29.
  9. Famous novelist and twitterian Lee Oi-su was criticized from the public and his video speech to the navy was wholly deleted from the popular broadcast TV program (MBC TV "진짜사나이") in November 2013. It was because he reportedly ridiculed in his twitter message to millions of his followers the government investigation report on the warship Cheonan sinking as "writing a fictional story." News1, "Novelist Lee ridiculed Citizens", November 20, 2013.
  10. See supra note 5.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Korea Economic Daily, "Digital Property of the Deceased", November 18, 2013.
  13. A bill was proposed before the Legislature so as to allow such digital property to be inherited to surviving family members. Ibid.
  14. Fordham Univ. School of Law, "Google Death: New Feature Allows Users to Take Control of Their Digital Afterlife", Intellectual Property Law Journal, April 25, 2013.




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