South Korea furious at North Korean Twitter and its followers

The South Korean government wants to put further internet restrictions in place to stop any websites in favour of its troubled neighbour in the North.

The country’s Justice Minister has said 2011’s plans will include trying to “block North Korea’s propaganda activity through social-networking services, such as Twitter.”

Websites judged to be sympathetic to Pyongyang, usually from organisations based in China and Japan with affiliations to North Korea, have been blocked by the South Korean government for several years.

According to CIO, South Korean internet users attempting to access the sites are redirected to a National Police Agency page indicating that the site is forbidden in South Korea.

The rules have been ticking along nicely until July when Uriminzokkiri, a China-based site cosy with Pyongyang, opened a Twitter account.

The Twitter feed gave headlines and links to news stories on the organisation’s website and was followed by a Facebook group that was quickly killed. However, accounts on Flickr and YouTube, as well as the Twitter feed, stay alive.  

The South Korean authorities tried their best to block access to the Twitter channel, which has around 10,545 followers, some of which include South Korean citizens. However, while the account page was blocked, Twitter messages from the account can still be seen when the site is accessed via a secure HTTPS connection.   

The South Korean Twitter “rebels” who follow the site could be in hot water. Under existing legislation, it is already illegal for South Koreans to take part in exchanges with North Korea without first getting permission from the South Korean government.

Those who fall foul of the law could face three years in prison or fines of up to $8,660 for doing so.

It is not yet clear how the Justice Ministry will move to change the Twitter and social networking laws but it is presumed the existing law could be part of its plans.

This isn’t the first time South Korea has gone after social networking. Earlier this month Facebook had its knuckles rapped from the Korea Communications Commission, which claimed it was in breach of data privacy laws.

The KCC told Facebook that it needs to do a better job of getting consent from users when getting their personal information. It’s also been pulled up for the way it handles personal information, the personal information it shares with third parties as well as its overall privacy policy.