By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service, who has been to North Korea
NORTH KOREA (ANS – May 31, 2016) — A clone of the Facebook social media site has briefly appeared in North Korea before quickly going offline.
According to the BBC, it was hosted on the StarCon.net.kp address in North Korea it had many of the features of other social networks.
It is not clear who created StarCon but it is thought to be a test project for a future service to be offered by the nation’s telecoms operator.
Soon after being discovered, the site was hacked and it is now not accessible.
The site was spotted by Doug Madory, a researcher at network management firm Dyn, who said it was rare to see any websites hosted in the secretive nation. The site’s name suggested it was linked to North Korea’s Star telecom service, he said.
The BBC said that StarCon was built around a commercial software package called phpDolphin and had many of the features, including newsfeeds, messaging systems and personal spaces, seen on other social sites. However, many of the site’s pages were unfinished and were filled with placeholder text.
“I don’t believe it was intended to be accessible from outside North Korea,” Mr Madory told the BBC.
However, he said, Dyn’s mention of StarCon on its Twitter feed led people to set up personal pages on the site and start using it to swap messages.
One of the first accounts created parodied North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Outsiders created about 300 accounts on StarCon during its brief existence.
“There were a lot of people signing up that, based on their comments, appeared to genuinely think they could reach the North Korean people through the website,” he said.
“I’m quite sure that no North Koreans ever really used it for a social network website despite the fact that it was hosted in North Korea.”
A day after being discovered, the site was hacked to re-direct every visitor to a YouTube video. Soon after, it went offline completely.
Photo captions: 1) A parody of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s present leader. 2) Dan Wooding with Dr. David Cho with the huge statue in Pyongyang, of North Korean founder, Kim Il-sung.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books. Dan is one of the only Christian journalists ever to be allowed to report from inside of North Korea. He has one radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California. Before moving to the US, Dan was a senior reporter with two of the UK’s largest circulation newspapers and also an interviewer for BBC Radio One in London.
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