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Press Like If You Hate: Is Everytime Still a “Community”?

기사승인 [351호] 2021.09.06  

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The Growth of Everytime Ten years from its release in 2011, Everytime has now racked up 4.5 million users from over 400 universities across Korea. Users gave Everytime its title as “the essential mobile application for university students”, and they were right to extol the service. Not only does Everytime allow college students to draw up schedules, create communities with students on the same campus, club, or major, it is also a virtual bulletin for school-related information containing more than 780 million posts. There are also separate individual functions such as the credit calculator, platforms to buy and sell second-hand textbooks, and write lecture reviews. The Problem: Hate Speech and Discrimination on Everytime Despite Everytime’s handiness and ubiquitous use, it has faced major controversies over the years. The issue lies in one of the most actively used services of Everytime, the community feature, where users can post and comment in the different subcommunities, as well as send direct messages to one another. More importantly, the posts, comments, and direct message functions can be easily made anonymous. Information of anonymous authors such as their name, nickname, school, and age are only available to the user themselves or the Everytime administrative team. The problem is found in these anonymous users. Profanities of hate and discrimination coming from blank profile icons reproduce rapidly in the boards and bulletins, while shutting down voices that stand in defiance. Such discourses are driven by misogyny, racism, homophobia and a general dehumanization and dismissal of the socially vulnerable. A representative of Hanyang University’s Human Rights Center stated that there have been three to four reports of online harassment from Everytime made by Hanyang University students. Despite these problems proliferating in other platforms as well, it is important to consider Everytime as its users are only composed of educated, young people unlike other unsupervised online communities. Origins of Discriminatory Ethos in Korean Youth Lee Jong-im, a Professor in the G r a d u a t e S c h o o l o f M e d i a a n d C o m m u n i c a t i o n s i n K y u n g H e e University states that the emerging attitudes of anger from the younger Korean population are far from unexpected. She marks, “We can see a distinct pattern of thinking in Korean youth t h a t u l t i m a t e l y leads to hateful behavior.” The pattern, explained by Professor Lee, sets its roots in the ideology of meritocracy deeply ingrained in Korean society. According to Professor Lee, Korean youth, namely those in their 20s and 30s, build their identity based on the seeming “awards” allowed by meritocracy, such as achieving a respectable status in their jobs followed by marriage, childbirth, and retirement. The pushy narratives of meritocracy persuade us that those who cross the threshold of university and work hard to build their careers will be gifted this ideal life. However convincing, Korean youth have come to realize that the path to comfort and stability is not so clear-cut. In an already competitive environment, due to a highly educated population with limited job opportunities, simply “working hard” does not relieve the uncertainties and anxieties that Korean youth know all too well. For some of these youth, it’s a few small leaps from anxiety to anger, from anger to rage, from rage to hateful resentment. The Psychology of Justifying Discrimination The general sentiments brewing from this resentment is not cooperation to build a better system of equality and opportunity, but elimination of competitors in the name of enforcing a stricter, thusly “fairer” meritocracy. From this perspective, those who are not fit to survive the meritocracy either deserve the losses or are subjects who deserve to be placed in the outskirts of society. This includes religious, sexual, or ethnic minorities or political groups who advocate affirmative action such as feminists. Affirmative action disrupts the natural order of a proper meritocracy, which makes it unfair and therefore unjust. By conflating justice and fairness, youth who spew words of disgust and violence online perceive themselves as pursuing justice, unafraid of incurring social stigma and claiming the dogma required to uphold fairness in what they perceive as a society benefitting the undeserving. Professor Lee notes, “It is impossible for the angry nature of the youth to not permeate to online platforms.” She continues, “Punishments in response to discriminatory behavior should be tackled both within universities and in the South Korean law. Currently, these two bodies of management have not been in partnership.” Park Jo-won, a Professor in the Department of Media and Social Informatics of Hanyang University supports this statement by adding that the main reason behind the growing hate expression for a particular group in online communities is because of conservative political forces forcibly dividing society to attract support from conversative votes. He states, “The conflict between conservative media and religious circles is amplifying this phenomenon, while the government of Korean Communications Commission (KCC) is not working in partnership or intervening any of these problematic parties.” Current Efforts Currently, Hanyang University’s human rights center has been trying to change its awareness through campaigns related to hate expression. (Sending hateprevention card news campus email, posting human rights weekly hate expression analysis poster, lectures on hate expression for human rights center supporters.) They added that universities i n S e o u l , l e d b y a g r o u p c a l l e d “UnivFemi” is making collective efforts t o c o m b a t o n l i n e h a r a s s m e n t i n Everytime and in their respective internet communities. One of these platforms is G o p a s , a c o m m u n i t y f o r K o r e a University students. A representative of Gopas shared that a post or comment that is reported by more than ten users is automatically deleted. However, the Hanyang Human Rights Center believes that the correct direction in tackling hate speech is in prevention, not regulation. Policies and Punishment The KCC announced its plan to create a sound cyber ethics culture in 2021 to prevent adverse functions caused by increased use of digital media in nonface-to-face life and create a healthy environment for Internet use. The Healthy Cyber Ethical Culture Project has been implemented nationally since 2009 to prevent cyberbullying. To prepare for the post-corona era in particular, this year, the KCC diversifed its education methods. First, they announced customizing Internet ethics and cyberbullying prevention education for the entire nation in consideration of characteristic conditions of each target groups. In addition, it will expand non-face-to-face education courses such as real-time online education and performance, along with on-site training such as instructor videos, puppet shows and musical performances, and partner with 1,800 institutions to enhance the educational environment caused by COVID-19. With more people are pointing out that it should respond to adverse functions such as increased provocative and violent content and the spread of unverified information on online communities, the KCC proposed to produce a n d d i s t r i b u t e guidebooks containing examples and guidelines that creators can use when producing and operating content and promote customized education for creators to develop “ethical capabilities”. The KCC also promised development of intelligence information ethics education programs and pilot education are promoted. The KCC provided a virtual experience-based ethics learning program to enhance the rights of users of intelligent information services such as AI and big data. Despite these various efforts in the status quo, there is a complete absence of policies tackling ongoing hate speech and discrimination part i c u l a r l y i n a n a p p l i c a t i o n l i k e Everytime, which is confined to utilization by university students rather than the general public. How We Cure the Ills of Online Hate Lee Chang-jun, a Professor in the Department of Media and Social Informatics at Hanyang University, warns of the generally “passive behavior” of university students towards hate speech on Everytime and online communities. He points out, “We [third party participants] may be disturbed, we may even feel violated but mostly do not actively act against discriminatory posts or comments.” Professor Lee Chang-jun shares a quote from Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” He states that this mindset should be the foundation of how we educate individuals to react against hate speech “even if ‘I’ myself [they themselves] may not be subject to online harassment”. To fight against the virus of hate, one must embrace and stand up for those who face hate and violence while maintaining our dignity and respect. 

Kim Sung-joo kimerica00@hanyang.ac.kr

<저작권자 © 한양저널 무단전재 및 재배포금지>
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