Lesson From Jailed South Korean Blogger: Don't Be Too Good With Your Predictions

from the it'll-come-back-to-bite-you dept

There's been a fascinating story coming out of Korea over the past few months, concerning the (formerly) anonymous online commentator who went by the name Minerva. He accurately forecasted some of the early days of the financial collapse last fall, and suddenly the press talked him up and everyone wanted to know who he was. Then he claimed that the Korean government had told companies to stop buying US dollars -- forcing the government to put out a statement denying this was true. Then, following a few weeks of searching, he was arrested for spreading false information and (a week later) his identity was revealed (along with a background that shows he wasn't particularly well connected or knowledgeable -- he likely made some lucky guesses).

But, it does raise questions about the fine line between making predictions and spreading false information. Because he had been so accurate with his earlier predictions, many started to assume that he was well-connected, and any future predictions he made would also be equally accurate. It seems that, once again, the old saw that "past results is no guarantee of future performance" was ignored. Now, there may be a difference in terms of how the information was presented -- in terms of whether he specifically claimed to know for certain that the Korean government had done what he said, as opposed to just predicting that it was about to happen -- but it seems like the line between a prediction and "spreading false information" gets pretty thin once everyone thinks you know what's going on better than anyone else.
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Filed Under: blogger, forecasts, free speech, minerva, predictions, south korea, spreading harmful information

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  1. identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, 13 Jan 2009 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: There is a difference

    Evil Mike:

    To the extent information is available, apparently there was no stating of guessing. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the link (http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/11/asia/korea.php?page=1)...

    The commentary that got him in trouble was his claim on Dec. 29 that the government issued an "emergency order" to financial firms and major corporations to stop buying U.S. dollars in a dire effort to arrest the fall of the Korean won. The government was forced to issue a denial to calm the market, though officials had previously appealed to large companies to stop hoarding dollars.

    Kim Yong Sang, a judge at the Seoul Central District Court, approving Park's arrest, said his blogging "affected foreign exchange markets and the nation's credibility."

    Park apologized and withdrew his Dec. 29 posting. Many of Park's predictions proved wrong, and he often did not substantiate his claims. He also lied about his background. He once created a mythic aura by describing himself as an aging farmer capable of spewing out financial jargon. In his last posting on Jan. 5, he said he had a master's degree from overseas and had worked on Wall Street.

    To arrest Park, the prosecutors invoked a rarely used provision in the country's online communications law that calls for up to five years in prison for those who "spread false information in public with an intention to harm public interest."

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