NHN Corp., the operator of South Korea's dominant Internet portal, has come under close scrutiny after it was found to have a rule to remove real-time search words if the government asks the portal to do so.
The rule is expected to stir up controversy over whether Naver could allow the government to censor the Internet portal, although Naver claimed that it has not implemented the rule.
Naver offers the Real-Time Search service, which enables users to get the most up-to-date information without them having to make additional searches.
According to a report by the Korea Internet Self-governance Organization (KISO), an industry group of major Internet firms, such as NHN Corp. and Daum Communications, Naver established the rule in 2012.
The rule says Naver could remove certain search words from the list of the Real-Time Search service if administrative and judicial institutions ask the Internet portal to remove such words.
The administrative and judicial institutions include the presidential office, ministries, the National Intelligence Service, prosecutors, police and the court.
Naver told Yonhap News Sunday afternoon that it has already revised the rule and removal can now be possible only when the deletion requests from public organizations conform to the current laws.
Another major portal, Daum, admitted that it has a similar rule to remove specific search words at the requests of administrative and judicial organizations.
Critics have long warned that such requests could be exploited to manipulate public opinion.