South Korean online comment manipulation

South Korean police uncover online comment manipulation from influential online blogger

Investigators say the blogger and his accomplices targeted news sites and manipulated some 20,000 comments

Police in South Korea say they have found opinion-rigging comments by an influential blogger and his accomplices on news articles critical of the incumbent government.

“They manipulated about 20,000 comments on 675 news articles, using 2,290 different IDs from January 17 to 18,” the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said.

It added about 2.1 million clicks were made with macro software. The automated programme enables a user to input multiple comments or likes for specific comments on news articles.

The blogger, surnamed Kim, and his partners are currently indicted over allegations that they artificially increased the number of clicks on “agree” for comments on a news article carried by the nation’s largest portal website Naver in January. The controversial article was about President Moon Jae-in’s decision to form a joint Korean ice hockey team for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.

According to police, they were suspected of using 614 IDs to ramp up the number of clicks at the time.

The police plan to notify prosecutors of the newly found evidence so they can add them to their ongoing hearings.

Since the online-rigging scandal came to light last month, 30 people have been booked, after the police found 21 additional members of the online community founded by Druking, for their alleged involvement in the comment manipulation scheme.

Implicated in the scandal, Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, a close aide to President Moon, was summoned for police questioning last week.

Kim has known and been in contact with Druking since 2016 and he sent at least 10 messages containing website links to news articles on President Moon from November 2016 to last month.

In addition, the lawmaker’s aide took 5 million won (US$4,636) from the blogger early this year — although the money was returned after Druking’s arrest.

The opinion-rigging scandal has led to political conflicts at the National Assembly.

Keeping a suspicious eye on the alleged connection between Kim and the online blogger, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is calling for an independent counsel investigation of the case.

However, the ruling side dismisses the speculation as a political offensive ahead of the upcoming local elections.

The nation will hold the elections on June 13 that will choose 17 provincial governors and mayors as well as municipal government heads, council members and educational superintendents.

Kim is running for governor of South Gyeongsang Province.