In the west, our worldview is sometimes myopic – we think that only we must deal with digital censorship and a seemingly never-ending pandemic saga.
Unfortunately, that’s not true – not only is there a pandemic of coronavirus, but suppression of “mis”information on the internet has also gone global. On top of that, in places like South Korea, hundreds of people are actually getting arrested.
As many as 202, that is, have been detained there since January, when coronavirus made its debut, until today, on charges of propagating fake news or revealing private information. (That would be private information collected in massive amounts by the authorities under the “trace, test and treat” – the so called 3T strategy, that some privacy activists and observers say is in itself privacy-violating.)
Either way, that reason for locking people up was more prominent in the early days of the epidemic, Korean media says.
But now, most of those the police are arresting are suspected of spreading misinformation. And when you look at what exactly that means, you can’t help but wonder if it might be a handy way to deal with political opposition?
For example, it’s said that these accused peddlers of fake information and conspiracy theories are undermining the authority of those in power, happen to be well known (apparently, “far right”) opponents of the country’s president, and have been involved in organizing anti-government protests, over what dissatisfied citizens say is fabricated coronavirus testing data.
At the center of this, and of the police interest (that includes raids, searches of premises, and arrests) is the the Sarang Jeil Church and a handful of videos posted on a number of YouTube channels (said to feature phone conversations between officials and citizens) claiming to prove that the Korean government is deliberately inflating the number of positive coronavirus cases (ostensibly as a means to justify and extend its current epidemic strategy.)
The police raids against the church came on Friday “after two failed attempts by the city of Seoul and health authority officials to secure data on its membership,” the report said – without going into who denied the authorities these identity unmasking attempts.
“Any attempt to undermine the social trust and threaten the health and safety of citizens” will be “thoroughly investigated,” warned
the Korean police.
“Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae vowed to have anyone intentionally disturbing the government’s quarantine efforts arrested upon investigation and given the highest level of penalization possible,” writes the Korean Herald.