Hi Blog. Another (rather pedestrian, but something for the uninitiated; even the GOJ comments–albeit flacidly–this time) article about the rolling controversy that remains 2-Channel, the world’s largest BBS, and a hotbed of anonymized libel (the “den of criminals” comment is not mine).
As always, 2-Channel adminstrator Nishimura gets quoted. Wish they’d asked more comments from the victims.
More on my (successful, but unrequited) libel lawsuit against them at
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Criticism mounts against forum
05/29/2007 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
BY TOMOYA ISHIKAWA AND MARIKO SUGIYAMA
Courtesy of Dave Spector
Hiroyuki Nishimura is not one to play by the rules of others.
The 30-year-old founder of 2 Channel, the nation’s biggest online forum, has come under a growing barrage of criticism over his Web site, but he’s not paying much attention.
Since its creation in 1999, the forum has exploded in popularity. It currently boasts 10 million visitors monthly and brings in hundreds of millions of yen annually in advertising.
The forum’s most distinguishing feature, complete freedom and anonymity for posters, has led to much of its popularity. But it has also led to a pile of lawsuits against Nishimura.
So far, courts have awarded tens of millions of yen in compensation to complainants, but Nishimura has stated on his Internet blog and elsewhere that he has no intention of paying up.
“We are actually all living bound by an incomplete set of rules–you don’t have to pay if you simply refuse to pay. I mean, if I am going to be sentenced to death, I’d probably pay,” Nishimura said after one rare appearance in court.
2 Channel’s anonymity and sheer size have contributed to the site entering the social consciousness in a variety of ways. There was the case of an in-house whistle-blower who blew the lid on illegal company behavior.
And there were the “Densha Otoko” (train man) postings by an anonymous otaku who won his dream girl with the support of his online friends. The modern fairy tale became a book, a TV drama and a movie starring Takayuki Yamada and Miki Nakatani.
But there is a flipside; numerous complaints regarding libelous remarks and invasions of privacy.
The most recent case was after a 17-year-old boy in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, walked into a police station on May 15, saying he had killed his mother. The 2 Channel bulletin board exploded with rumors and information revealing the juvenile’s name.
As soon as the boy was arrested on suspicion of murder, 2 Channel was full of activity. One post said: “Here’s all the information I gathered about ‘–.’ Feel free to add anything that you’ve got.” The boy’s name, the names of the high school he attends and the junior high school he graduated from were all revealed.
Authorities asked 2 Channel moderators to delete 25 postings, stating they violated the Juvenile Law, which bans the publication of information that identifies minors accused of crimes. The request brought little change. In fact, a flurry of additional postings followed.
A Justice Ministry official said once information is posted on the site, it is extremely difficult to keep a lid on the data.
“Once you get written up on 2 Channel, the comments get quoted in other Internet blogs. Requesting deletion becomes an endless cat-and-mouse chase. There would be fewer problems if (the moderator) deleted the offensive post immediately.”
More than 50 lawsuits have been filed against Nishimura at the Tokyo District Court alone since 2001. A company in Tokyo took 2 Channel to court following a slew of postings stating the company was a “den of criminals.” Names of the company board members were posted. The company repeatedly asked that the posts be deleted, but to no avail.
In 2004, the company filed a provisional disposition with the Tokyo District Court. In June that year, 2 Channel was ordered to delete the comments. Nishimura refused to comply.
Two months later, an indirect enforcement was applied, imposing a fine each day until the request is met. Nishimura has refused to pay the fines.
According to 2 Channel’s internal guidelines, “Posts that have been subjected to court rulings will be deleted.” Yet the rule is there in name only.
A group of 300 voluntary self-elected moderators supposedly manage the 2 Channel site. But when it comes to a decision on whether to delete a post, Nishimura said: “If the post is obviously a crime, (it goes). We have our own criteria.”
Under a law enforceable since 2002, victims or Justice Ministry authorities can request a bulletin board’s operator to erase posts considered a civil rights violation and disclose sender information. Still, the request is not enforceable, and noncompliance does not carry penalties. Everything is left to the provider’s discretion.
According to one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, the accumulated fines from indirect enforcement orders has hit at least 430 million yen.
Nishimura has admitted that he draws an annual income of more than 100 million yen.
However, he has no real estate, and it is unclear how much he receives from a company on which he serves as a board member. Collection by seizing assets becomes difficult.(IHT/Asahi: May 29,2007)