K-pop agency HYBE asks US court to help unmask X account in defamation case

FILE PHOTO: BTS perform during the 49th Annual American Music Awards at Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 21, 2021. Picture taken November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) -Entertainment group HYBE, home to K-pop group BTS, has asked a U.S. court to compel social media platform X to reveal the identity of a user it accuses of defamation and harassment, according to a court filing reviewed by Reuters.

The application for a court order is to assist a criminal complaint filed by HYBE against anonymous X user with the handle "@guiltyarchive" with the Seoul Yongsan Police Station on May 2, it showed.

The case follows calls by BTS fans to better protect the group against malicious rumours amid an ongoing internal dispute with a sub-label.

Some of the fans, known as ARMYs, sent flowers and trucks bearing supportive messages to HYBE's headquarters in Seoul this month and called on the firm to take legal action.

HYBE said it had no comment to add. X Korea did not respond to request for comment, while X Corp and HYBE's lawyer Eugene Kim were not immediately available for comment.

The operator of the account said to Reuters in a direct message on X that the posts mentioned in the court filing were "not defamatory against certain artists" and that they had been deleted.

In South Korea, those who make sensationalist social media content, often targeting celebrities, are dubbed "cyber wreckers" and have been blamed for encouraging cyberbullying.

In a rare move, K-pop singer Jang Won-young and her agency Starship Entertainment identified an individual behind a YouTube channel with the help of Google while seeking lawsuits over defamation charges against the individual.

"It's a process of gathering evidence about a dispute in a foreign court so when you judge freedom of expression, you don't judge it from the standpoint of U.S. law," Kyongsok Chong at LIWU Law Group, who is representing Jang and her agency, told Reuters.

HYBE's lawyer said in the legal document that "false" and "defamatory" statements from the X account, which has over 100,000 followers, had caused irreparable harm to the firm's business and shareholders.

The X posts cited in the filing mention K-pop groups managed by HYBE and its subsidiaries including BTS and girl group Le Sserafim.

The subpoena request was made at the San Francisco Division of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, where X's headquarters are located.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Jan Harvey and Alison Williams)

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