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A South Korean court ended a law requiring Internet contributors to use their real names to leave comments, ruling unanimously Thursday that the policy undermined free speech.

The online naming law took effect in 2007 under a bipartisan push to curb libeling, the spread of false rumors and abusive comments in the cyber space. South Korea saw a flurry of celebrity suicides allegedly motivated by malicious online comments, which mobilized the move to control the Internet space.

The eight judges at the Constitutional Court said the real name policy discouraged people from voicing dissents out of concern they would be punished.

"Expressions under anonymity or pseudonym allow (people) to voice criticism on majority opinion without giving into external pressure," the court said. "Even if there is a side effect to online anonymity, it should be strongly protected for its constitutional value."

The court also said it found no proof that the law helped decrease libel or the spread of rumors and false information.

Under the real-name policy, nearly 150 websites with over 100,000 daily visitors, often very popular destinations for South Koreans, required submission of identity information to leave comments.


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