Who killed Iluda? : AI governance, toxic masculinity, and their consequences in Korea
In this presentation, I examine the current status of AI governance in Korea and its implications from the technological imaginary perspective. To this purpose, I analyze the case of Iruda, a deep-learning-based chatbot service in Korea, defined as a twenty-year-old woman. While the service was launched in December 2020 with a great deal of public attention, only after three weeks, the service was terminated by the developer after days of heated debates because of the suspicious data management of the firm, the hate speech of the chatbot, and the sexual harassment toward the chatbot. Currently, the firm is under investigation for the violation of private data regulation.
By relying upon document analysis of magazine and newspaper articles and interviews with experts in Korea, the paper indicates that the aforementioned three topics are related to, even encouraged by AI governance and the toxic masculine culture in Korea. First, while building AI governance, the Korean government has focused on accelerating AI development by support and deregulation. Second, the IT firms have concentrated on technological development while being indifferent to ethical and social implications. Third, the Internet, which is still dominated by young males, continues to function as a space where toxic masculinity is expressed, mostly without consequences. In this context, the developer of Iruda was able to build their chatbot as a young woman while explicitly targeting the biased group of young males as their major client, leading to the incident.
These findings indicate that the technological imaginary as how we perceive a particular technology and envision the future in relation to the technology is not uniquely concerned with the specific technology. Rather, the technological imaginaries are the instantiations of (some aspects of) the existing social order, which, in turn, reinforce the instantiated order. From this perspective and in Iruda’s case, I argue that the incident was caused not only by the failed regulation but also by the toxic masculine culture that has been widely embedded in Korean society, especially in the IT-related sphere. Then, I conclude that, while a stricter regulation might have been considered a solution for preventing another case like Iruda, it is merely a political version of solutionism.