Collaboration

When defecation leads to defamation

Under the title Newsworthy Schmoozeworthy, I have vowed to blog about news stories that I find interesting and/or disturbing. Here's a story that I ran across today that truly fits both categories: "S. Korea aims to cool Internet rage attacks." Just reading the title alone may not stimulate your curiosity enough to click through and check it out, but once you do, the leading caption in bold will certainly capture your attention: "Dog poop girl is infamous in South Korea."  Say what?!?!

Ok, so here's the scoop (pun intended - you'll get it in a bit). A young woman was riding on the subway with her small dog. The dog pooped, but the woman exited the subway without picking it up. "Someone caught the incident in pictures shot with a mobile phone. The photos were posted on the Internet with a brief description of what took place, and shortly thereafter 'dog poop girl' became the most-searched phrase among South Korean Internet users."

Wait... the story gets more bizarre: "In the case of dog poop girl, which took place last year, the Internet site of one university crashed when it was flooded with angry e-mails demanding the school take action against the young woman who had outraged so many. The only problem was, the offender did not go to that school."

The South Koreans (dubbed "netizens"), who were searching for the identity of the dog poop girl, have mistakenly identified and damaged the reputations of innocent people. According to Shin Soung-sik, a prosecutor who specializes in defamation and libel cases tied to Internet campaigns, "A few netizens do not separate facts from rumor before launching campaigns meant to shame and defame."

In order for my mind to sufficiently wrap around this story, I have to examine it from several angles. Is it the girl's fault for not scooping up her dog's poop? Is it the person's fault that had the camera phone, took the incriminating photographs, and posted them on the Internet? Is it the netizens' fault for posting information on the Internet that was meant to be harmful? Is there even a clear answer here? I'm curious to hear your opinion...

About Sonja Thompson

Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.

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