Have you ever gone into a website during total political chaos? Especially when a political scandal leads to entire nation marching for the president’s impeachment? Some of you readers may already know what this blog post will be exploring through, after reading the title and first 2 sentences. Yes, I am a Korean student who uses the internet platform called NAVER every single day. For those of who may not be aware of what NAVER is, it is a Google for Koreans and Baidu for Koreans (hope this explanation helped your understanding).
NAVER is more than a just internet platform. Find out more about NAVER EVERYTHING can happen here! Within the platform, netizens can get access to newspaper articles from various companies, watch videos like YouTube, write a blog post, send emails, read comics and even play games. The convenience and fast-adjustment to trends would be the merits of NAVER that attracts so many users in Korea. Apart from all these great utilities, the most important section of NAVER is “real-time trending search words.” For every hour, NAVER updates the trending stream based on how many times have people looked those keywords up. NAVER insists that their update is solely based on the frequency of looked up words, but they got into a great controversy due to the inclusion of suspicious and irrelevant keywords during the presidential impeachment. Impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye
How NAVER works is, people usually click the keywords in the real-time trending box rather than looking up other keywords. Why? Because it is said to be “Trending”. In a world where constant change and a fast-paced shift in trends are happening, it is crucial to catch up with those trending keywords. I personally am susceptible to those keywords since they are basically the summary of Korean society.
Before the impeachment movement of president Geun-Hye Park started, multiple networks of corrupted politicians were revealed by reporters with a sense of duty. However, every-time when the news was updated, the trending keywords box were full of irrelevant celebrities’ scandals and even random keywords. Day by day, a strong sense of doubt and suspicion grew in a lot of Korean people including myself. I myself as a NAVER user also experienced many situations where my views were blurred.
For example, when ex-chief of prosecutor Byung-woo Woo was found out to be involved in this scandal, the real-time trending box didn’t even show a single word related to him. Instead, there were keywords related to a celebrity’s marriage and casual restaurants. Because of these manipulated RTTB (Real-Time Trending Box), I ended up knowing this fact way later, caused by a blurred view.
After the president was impeached, NAVER accepted widely spread criticism and adopted a new policy regarding their RTTB. NAVER’s new policy After they changed their system, the RTTB was removed from the home screen. It was definitely welcomed by the mass, and I personally felt much less controlled by the trending keywords.
What’s dangerous about these intended manipulations of platform and algorithm of RTBB is that it makes us narrow-minded and leads the users to be selective when reading articles. If we stay unaware of this fact and continue to just follow the trend, then we are helping the company to control our thinkings. Some people may ask me why am I still using this platform even after knowing being exposed may be dangerous. Frankly speaking, the significance of NAVER in Korean society is so big that it is almost impossible to stop using it (Even though my mom managed to stop using NAVER – she uses DAUM now). What I have learned from this experience is that NAVER is somewhere between necessary and needless. It is essential as a source of information and news, but it is also needless in the sense of a limited range of the lens. Therefore, keeping balance and finding the grey area where getting benefits from it while also being cautious of these danger will be required as a healthy netizen.