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NewJeans files court application to reveal identity of YouTube troll

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Girl group NewJeans pose for a photo as Incheon International Airport's new ambassadors at a ceremony in March. The group has asked Google to identify the operator behind a YouTube channel, who the members allege to have spread defamatory information, according to U.S. news reports. [YONHAP]
Girl group NewJeans pose for a photo as Incheon International Airport’s new ambassadors at a ceremony in March. The group has asked Google to identify the operator behind a YouTube channel, who the members allege to have spread defamatory information, according to U.S. news reports. [YONHAP]

NewJeans has asked a federal court in California to help it unmask a YouTube user allegedly spreading “false and defamatory” information about the group’s members.

NewJeans filed a court application on March 27, according to a New York Times report on Wednesday. The application, if approved, would force Google to reveal the identity of the YouTube user.

The group initially filed a report with police in Seoul, but the local authorities were unable to pursue the case, as the user could not be identified.

Court documents showed that a YouTuber with the handle “@Middle7” was alleged to have made “as many as 33 defamatory videos” about NewJeans members that have been viewed more than 13 million times.

The group’s lawyer, Eugene Kim, wrote that @Middle7 has “engaged in name-calling or mocking behavior” that targets NewJeans. Kim said the content would “continue to inflict significant reputational damage.”

“Middle School 7th Grade” (translated), the channel run by @Middle7, currently has 13,900 subscribers and has uploaded 179 videos.

Should the request go through and the account operator be identified, the group will be able to sue the user for defamation and insult in Korea, which are criminal offenses in the country.

It has been difficult for domestic investigation authorities to track people who upload content on platforms that run on international servers, such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

But, as proven in a similar case, this is not impossible.

In October last year, girl group IVE’s agency Starship Entertainment and group member Jang Won-young filed separate civil suits against YouTuber Sojang for spreading derogatory and defamatory claims about the group, particularly Jang.

The group’s lawyer, attorney Chong Kyong-sok, filed a motion with a Californian district court in May 2023 requesting that Google disclose Sojang’s personal information. Google granted Chong’s request two months later and revealed the name and address of the operator behind Sojang.

In January, a court sided with Jang and ordered the YouTuber to pay 100 million ($75,000) won in damages.

NewJeans’ lawyer, Kim, told the New York Times that he had written to Google for information about the YouTube account but was unsuccessful. He then submitted a motion to a court in California under a federal statute, which allows people to obtain the documents needed in a foreign proceeding.

“We regularly take legal action for violations of artists’ rights,” NewJeans’ agency, ADOR, said to the New York Times in a statement.

To find out more about NewJeans, visit Celeb Confirmed! 

BY KIM JU-YEON [kim.juyeon2@joongang.co.kr]

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