Social networking software

Facebook Deletes North Korean Account, but It Resurfaces

A Facebook account established by a North Korea-linked Web site was deleted by the social networking service on Friday, but a new group sprang up over the weekend to take its place.

The account belonged to Uriminzokkiri, a Web site that provides Korean-language news and propaganda from North Korea's central news agency. The Web site appears to be run from servers in China but is ultimately controlled from Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

The Facebook group appeared on Thursday and carried links to articles on the Uriminzokkiri Web site and videos on the site's YouTube channel. In its short life the Facebook group managed to attract a handful of Facebook friends before becoming unavailable during the Friday U.S. business day.

"The page in question was removed because it violated our terms of use," said Kumiko Hidaka, a Facebook spokeswoman by e-mail.

Facebook did not immediately say which of its terms of use were broken, but section 16 puts usage restrictions on countries on the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control list that reads: "If you are located in a country embargoed by the United States or are on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of Specially Designated Nationals you will not engage in commercial activities on Facebook (such as advertising or payments) or operate a Platform application or website."

North Korea appears on the U.S. government's list.

But over the weekend a replacement account was launched and is still available at time of writing. It carries content similar to the original site and has attracted almost 400 "friends" since it became available.

The group is listed on the Uriminzokkiri Web site so appears to be an official channel, but little information is available regarding the account holder. The profile details it as belonging to a single male who wants to network and meet friends and has interests in Korean reunification and, perhaps bizarrely, lactose free milk.

Messages to the operator of the Facebook account went unanswered.

The Facebook group is the latest foray into social media by the Uriminzokkiri Web site, which is the closest thing North Korea has to an official home on the Internet.

About a month ago it started a YouTube channel carrying clips from state television and earlier this month launched a Twitter account. The Twitter account has attracted the most interest and already has more than 10,000 followers.

South Korea, which is technically still at war with North Korea,began blocking access to the Twitter account's home page on Thursday, but the blocking only affects the account's home page. Retweets are not blocked, and access is possible via a secure connection to Twitter and the Twitter API.

The Uriminzokkiri Web site and a handful of other sites linked to North Korea have been blocked by the South Korean government for several years.

Over the weekend the Web site began carrying information on software and techniques that would allow users to bypass the blocking. However it's unclear how potential users who would need to use the software could see the page if it's blocked.

(Additional reporting by IDG Korea's Hyuna Kim in Seoul.)

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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