KOREA: Porn on YouTube alerts local portals

Portal operators expect the launch of YouTube Korea may introduce a wave of indecent material online

The Korea Times
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Internet service providers are raising a red flag over self-recorded sexual video clips on YouTube that they claim could become part of local video-sharing services once its Korean language service opens as early as next month.

Pornography and other graphic materials are supposed to be censored by YouTube operators but many clips survive the filtering system because of the enormous amount of daily uploads on the site. Those files can be easily downloaded on users' PCs and spread to other video sharing services.

"YouTube will become a hotbed of pornography when it opens its Korean language site," said a manager at the video monitoring team of Naver, the largest Internet portal site in Korea. "We are reinforcing our monitoring team to prevent the inflow of obscene material to Naver."

The Internet has been a popular medium for pornography since the age of the text-based Telnet services in the 1990s to the World Wide Web in the early 2000s and to the current peer-to-peer file sharing boom. Most recently, the advent of social networking sites and user-created contents, such as YouTube, has made it easier to access homemade sex videos on the Web.

YouTube is the most popular video-sharing service in the world. It is known to have some 50,000 video clips newly posted every day by over 50 million registered users. The site advises its users not to upload pornography or sexually explicit content, and removes files when they are "flagged" by other users. But many x-rated materials are often left without being noticed or filtered by the site operators. On Monday, for example, a video that exposed a couple's genitals was shown on its "top favorite" page in a thumbnail picture format.

Compared to services in the United States, Europe and Japan, major Internet firms in South Korea have adopted more strict measures in dealing with indecent material. Language barriers have also helped separate Korean users from pornography from other countries to some degree.

In March, a one-minute porn video clip was removed from Yahoo Korea's video sharing page after six hours more than 25,000 users viewed it. The incident sparked a backlash and the Ministry of Information and Communication issued a warning to portals and Internet service operators that it would suspend their operating rights if they failed to properly monitor and filter porn or other questionable material.

While increasing their monitoring workforce, portals have also adopted automatic file filtering systems that use a database of known pornographic films. They are also developing advanced image filtering systems that automatically scan video files for certain color patterns, such as that of human skin.

"Social responsibility should be more emphasized on portals and UCC service operators," Park Pal-hyun, a researcher of the LG Economic Research Institute, said in a report published Monday. "They should take strong measures to prevent Internet users from becoming criminals."