South Korea Accuses Google of Failing to Protect Minors From Porn

Michael Hayes
SEOUL, South Korea — Government officials are accusing search engine giant Google of failing to protect South Korean children from Internet pornography.

According to a report by the Korea Times, national search portals take the responsibility of confirming that users are at least 20 years old before allowing them to access sites containing pornographic material. In fact, Korean search portals go as far as to restrict display pages resulting from keyword searches that contain any sex-related words. However, according to the paper, Google, which Korean users can access, does not follow the local practice.

While Google technically hasn’t broken any local laws, its failure to comply with local custom could cost the company, which has had trouble breaking into the South Korean market.

“Google is not legally required to check whether Internet users are over 20 years old before showing the search results for adult content,” Han Meyong-ho, an official at the state-run Information Communication Ethics Committee, said.

But, as Meyong-ho pointed out, it would be “proper” for Google to verify the age of its users — something that Yahoo’s Korean portal does do.

According to South Korean government reports, Yahoo converts more than 30 percent of its click-throughs in the country, while Google lags behind, average between 10 and 17 percent.

While the South Korean government has taken its case to the press, officials have been unable to reach Google directly because the company lacks a local office in the country.