[Column] Superchat politics in full swing
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“I’m beginning to abhor politics from what goes on these days. There is not an inch of decency. I cannot believe the low standards of the politicians we had picked with our own hands,” one acquaintance blurted out. A guest on a radio news program observed, “There is just two views these days. Those unhappy with the president think at least he is better than the main opposition leader, and those critical of the opposition find the party is yet better than the president.”
Many would agree. A Gallup Korea survey last month showed that voters’ hostility toward both the governing People Power Party (PPP) and the Democratic Party (DP) has reached new heights. Politicians merely seek comfort from their die-hard loyal groups and refuse to see that most of the people are beyond disgusted, they are devastated.
More than a month has passed since the tragic deaths from a crowd crush in Itaewon. Few are taking responsibility, dumping the onus on working-level officials. MBC has only gained new fame as a broadcaster under oppression from the sitting power after one of its reporters was denied boarding of the presidential plane for an overseas trip over his broadcasting of the hot-mic moment of the president in New York. The DP is painstakingly defending its chief from his judicial risks. The party spokesman collaborated with a liberal YouTube channel to spread fake news. Although the drinking binge allegedly involving President Yoon Suk-yeol and Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon turned out to be cooked-up, Rep. Kim Eui-kyeom, the spreader of the fake news, keeps his seat. YouTube channel The Tamsa visited the home of the justice minister to bang on the door while livestreaming. They claimed it was part of an investigative report, but it is outright privacy invasion and harassment. Supporters cheered on, sending money — and the subscriber count of the channel increased.
In “Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives of Extremists,” author Julia Ebner calls YouTube one of the epicenters for breeding fanatical extremist thinking on the internet. Radical activists and media outlets raided the homes and offices of journalists who write critical articles, and broadcast the scenes live on social media. The offensive scenes disguised as reporting raise content viewership and subscription rates to make money and indulge fans for entertainment purposes. Ebner also received the same attack after her identity was disclosed to opponents during an undercover investigation.
In 2017, the German government for the first time in the world enacted a law levying a fine of up to 5 million euros ($5.2 million) on social media companies who fail to remove hate speech or other illegal content from their platforms immediately. The action was taken after online radicalism led to terrorist acts and extreme protests offline. The European Union in April also agreed to draw up a similar punitive act dubbed the Digital Services Act. The British parliament is also reviewing its Online Safety Bill.
According to a report on YouTube, the top five channels in terms of their revenue from superchats earned a total 5.4 billion won ($4.1 million). Including the most profitable Garo Sero Research Institute, four out of the top five are all political channels of either far-left or far-right. The five majors raked in 68 million won through superchats for their hate expression, harassment and sensational content.
The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) claimed that the revenue from hate content from the survey would be just the tip of the iceberg. Since many channels can make easy money from an hour of broadcasting in vulgar and sensational language and content on YouTube, which is beyond regulatory supervision, more YouTubers turn to extremism with provocative language and contents. The PSPD called for regulation on hate content and greater liability on platform operators. Google Korea does not have any staff monitoring YouTube content. As a result, users must communicate directly with its U.S. headquarters.
A news report said that 14 political YouTube channels earned more than 135.3 million — the average donation for a lawmaker — through superchats last year. Although they are merely money-chasers, politicians collaborate with them based on ideology instead of keeping distance with them or trying to regulate them.
The offensive scenes disguised as reporting raise content viewership and subscription rates.