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  • Yomiuri: NPA finally cracking down on Internet BBS threats and defamation

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 1st, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  An update on how Japan’s police forces are cracking down on the nastiness of the Internet.  About time.  Now if only Japan’s police would only enforce past pertinent Civil Court decisions...  Arudou Debito in Kumamoto

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    Police send papers on Net flamers / Crackdown against comments on comedian’s blog seen as defamation warning

    Police on Friday sent papers to prosecutors on six people suspected of defaming or threatening to physically harm comedian Smiley Kikuchi in messages they posted on his blog after groundlessly concluding he was involved in the murder of a high school girl in 1989.

    Of the six whose cases were sent to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, two are suspected of threatening to physically harm Kikuchi, 37, on his blog. The remaining four–including a 45-year-old male university employee of Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, and a male company employee, 36, of Toda, Saitama Prefecture–are suspected of defaming him, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

    The two suspected of threatening Kikuchi with bodily harm, including a 36-year-old male construction worker of Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, allegedly continued sending threatening messages to Kikuchi through the blog even after he restricted access to its message board in April.

    It is the first time a case has been built simultaneously against multiple flamers over mass attacks on a blog. The police’s reaction represents a strong warning against making online comments that cross the line from freedom of expression to defamation or threats.

    According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the four suspected of defaming the comedian posted vicious comments, three or four times each, between early April and mid-August last year, wrongly concluding that he was involved in a 1989 murder in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, in which a high school girl was killed and her body abandoned in a drum and covered in cement.

    The messages posted by the four included “You murderer! Why don’t you drop dead?” and “[You are] the one suspected of involvement in the confinement, assault and murder of a high school girl.”

    The two suspected of threatening Kikuchi posted messages once and twice, respectively, between early May and early June, with one of them writing in a message: “Many guys are targeting you. Die!”

    As the message board of the blog was flooded with malicious comments–including one that read, “How come a murderer can be a comedian?”–since it was set up in January last year. Kikuchi filed a complaint with the MPD in August.

    The police had been investigating 18 people they were able to identify.

    The police concluded that four of the 18 repeatedly posted vicious messages or made groundless accusations related to the murder.

    Of the remaining 14 flamers, two were accused of making threats as they posted messages in which they clearly indicated their intention to harm the comedian.

    ===

    Insults rife online

    More than 3,000 messages expressing the hardship Internet users suffered as a result of defamation on the Internet were posted on a comedian’s blog after police announced in February they would pursue criminal responsibility for people who posted messages there wrongly accusing him of involvement in the 1989 murder of a teenage girl.

    In messages posted on the blog of comedian Smiley Kikuchi, 37, people related their experiences after being the target of abuse on the Internet. One person posted a message expressing feelings of helplessness as he or she had to bear the pain silently.

    According to the police, Kikuchi has been the subject of groundless defamation accusing him of involvement in the high school girl’s murder in Adachi Ward, Tokyo. The girl was killed by a group of teenage boys and her body left in a drum and covered in cement. The comedian’s blog has been flooded with similar messages since he set it up.

    After the Metropolitan Police Department announced it was planning to send papers to prosecutors on people whose messages were especially malicious, Kikuchi expressed on Feb. 5 his feelings about the problem and how the defamatory messages escalated on his blog.

    After that, more than 3,000 messages, many of them encouraging Kikuchi, were posted on his blog. The senders related their experiences of receiving verbal violence from anonymous people, including being harassed on their blogs or being defamed on informal alternative school bulletin boards. One person said harassing messages were even sent to his or her workplace.

    According to the National Police Agency, it received 81,994 consultations about cybercrime from citizens last year–up 12 percent from 2007–with 11,516 from people complaining they were defamed on blogs and Internet bulletin boards. The number exceeded 10,000 for the first time.

    (Mar. 28, 2009)
    ENDS

    3 Responses to “Yomiuri: NPA finally cracking down on Internet BBS threats and defamation”

    1. Esiliato Says:

      Although this is good news, I am a little bit afraid this could be used as an excuse to limit internet freedom. They are trying that everywhere, let`s keep eyes open

    2. carl Says:

      Any reason why this guy was singled out for all the harsh treatment? Does he have some connection to the case or is he totally unrelated?

      Either way, laws have been broken and punishments need to be doled out accordingly. I guess the defamation isn’t so terribly bad as to warrant jail time (more like an apology and maybe a fine), but death threats are just unacceptable. Throw the book at these bullies.

    3. Adamu Says:

      In February they originally busted 18 people for this incident, but apparently only had enough evidence to charge six.

      According to Kikuchi’s explanation, there is no evidence for it, but someone started the rumor and made the connection because he grew up in the Kitasenju where the murder occurred, was the same age, and also had a reputation for being kind of a punk. Then, the rumors found their way into a “behind the scenes of the entertainment” book which lent credibility to the accusations.

      I agree this is a step forward for establishing rules of the road in the Japanese Internet. News that reports of “Internet abuse” are on the rise is also a positive sign as it not only signals that people are holding internet posters legally responsible, it also shows that the police authorities see it to their advantage to push news coverage of these cases, presumably as a theme to get more budget (much as they had been heavily promoting the idea of foreign crime when that was fashionable a few years ago). Not only does it take their attention away from unfairly repressing foreigners, it focuses that attention on an area where it is sorely needed.

      It’s also important for Japan’s elite opinion-makers to see news like this so they can get over their irrational fear of the Net, which was the gist of a piece I wrote about this case at Neojaponisme, back when the group of flamers was first busted:
      http://neojaponisme.com/2009/02/18/smiley-kikuchi-vs-the-internet/

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