Ruling party pushes for heavy financial penalties for fake news

SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) — The Democratic Party will push to stamp out fake news by legislating a new law that obliges media to pay punitive damages for the spread of malicious disinformation and misinformation, officials said Friday.

The new law the ruling party aims to pass through the National Assembly by the end of this month calls for the payment of compensation three to five times the calculated amount of damage caused by false information in news, they said.

The imposition of extraordinary financial penalties was proposed as part of a new relief system for damage from fake and manipulated information unveiled by the party’s special committee on media reform in a session Thursday.

In case it is difficult to calculate the amount of damage, the committee suggested that it be estimated to be between 30 million won (US$26,500) and 50 million won. It means that a maximum compensation of 250 million won would be possible even in the case of failure to calculate the amount of damage from fake news.

Aware of criticism that the new law may weaken the media’s monitoring function, however, the committee said that the punitive liability will be recognized only when malicious intent against public officials in political service or executives and employees of large corporations is confirmed.

Moreover, the media will be exempted from liability if they have made sufficient efforts to verify the authenticity of their news. The committee also suggested that any request for correction of information be disclosed in the concerned media article in order to prevent the spread of false information.

In a related reform plan, the ruling party will push to limit the news editorial rights of internet portal sites by allowing readers to personally exercise their own rights to choose media, reporters and news articles.

The party will also discuss with portal operators the removing or scaling down of the amount of news articles recommended by their own artificial intelligence algorithms.

“The rights to recommend CEO candidates for public broadcasters will be returned to the people. The editorial rights for portal news will also be returned to the people,” said Rep. Song Young-gil, the chairman of the ruling party, in the committee meeting.

“The media environment reform plan is not intended to block the media’s function of criticism. All ordinary people, as well as opposition parties, can be victims.”