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Fake news on soccer star generated W700m: report

March 3, 2024 - 12:01 By Yoon Min-sik
Lee Kang-in (Yonhap)

YouTube videos carrying fake news about controversy-ridden soccer star Lee Kang-in are thought to have generated up to 700 million won ($523,000) in profit in the two weeks after his alleged altercation with Son Heung-min became public, a report by an advertising consulting firm claimed Sunday.

Lee, a 23-year-old player for Paris Saint-Germain, was subject to nationwide criticism when it was reported that he had allegedly fought with the South Korean national men's soccer team captain Son Heung-min during the Asian Cup 2023.

Public disdain for Lee receded when Lee said on Feb. 22 that he had apologized to Son in person in London, and the Tottenham Hotspur star asked the public to forgive his younger teammate from the national squad.

But over the two weeks since the quarrel went public last month, 361 videos carrying completely false information about Lee have been uploaded on YouTube, garnering a total of 69.4 million views on the online video-sharing platform, according to an estimate by Pyler, an AI-based digital advertising solutions company, which analyzed the videos uploaded Feb. 14-27.

The company claimed that based on its calculation of the estimated profit for YouTube videos, which factor in the number of views and channel subscribers, the fake news videos are thought to have generated some 700 million won in profit.

In one channel with 60,000 subscribers, a video claimed that Lee's contract with the PSG has been terminated, and the "infuriated" team owner banned him from playing in France's top division Ligue 1. Despite not providing any proof of the claim, the video garnered 500,000 views while carrying advertisements.

"Based on the calculations, this channel is thought to have garnered somewhere between 14 million and 32 million won in the past 30 days," Pyler said.

The company pointed out that it is difficult for YouTube officials to verify which videos the advertisements are attached to, and urged for a system that prevents fake news content from carrying advertisements.

Lee, who was among the best players in South Korea's ill-fated quest for the Asian Cup championship, was involved in an altercation of an unspecified nature just one day before the team's 2-0 semifinal loss to Jordan in the Qatar tournament. The incident resulted in a dislocated finger for Son.

The row occurred after Lee and the younger players of the team finished dinner quickly to play table tennis, which team captain Son took issue with.

The highly-publicized incident was dubbed "ping pong gate" by the media here. It led to widespread criticism of Lee among South Koreans, with reports indicating some of his advertisers were considering canceling their contracts with him.