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  • Mainichi: Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 3rd, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  Here’s something that adds up to another brick in the wall against internet bullies and defamers in Japan (who play a significant role in the debate, surprisingly).  The Supreme Court rules that the defense often utilized by proponents of bullying and slandering BBS 2-Channel, that people can discern for themselves what is fact or fiction, therefore issues such as defamation are irrelevant to a free-speech-loving society, simply won’t wash anymore.  Sorry it has to come to this, but freedom of speech does not mean freedom to lie and willfully, maliciously hurt people.  Or get away with not paying up after successful libel lawsuits like the one I had four years ago.  Arudou Debito in Tokyo


    Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility
    (Mainichi Japan) March 19, 2010 Courtesy of MS

    Just because a piece of information is published on the Internet, viewers do not necessarily deem it to be of low credibility. So ruled the Supreme Court recently in a defamation suit in which a man was accused of slandering a restaurant operator on his own Web site, saying that the company was affiliated with a cult.

    The top’s court’s ruling secures a guilty verdict that ordered the man to pay 300,000 yen in compensation. It was the first ruling to confirm that the conditions for establishing defamation were not relaxed on the Internet.

    Considering that people are often slandered, have their privacy violated, and sometimes even suffer human rights violations on the Internet — where users can post comments anonymously — the Supreme Court’s decision can be deemed appropriate.

    In 2008 there were more than 500 online cases involving human rights violations in which the Ministry of Justice initiated relief measures. The figure was 2.5 times higher than in 2004. And in 2008 there were over 11,000 cases in which people approached police saying that they had been slandered. The figures indicate that there are many potential victims.

    In what kind of situations do people not face defamation charges? One instance involves reports on information of public benefit, when the purpose of reporting the information is for public benefit and the information is true, or there are sufficient grounds to believe it is true. This has been established through judicial precedents.

    In a district court ruling in the defamation case, the court found the man not guilty on the grounds that information on the Internet was of lower credibility and other users were able to rebut inappropriate claims. The court applied a more relaxed standard than the standard applied to newspaper and television reporting.

    But in the latest ruling, the Supreme Court declared, “Online information is available to the general public very quickly, and it can cause serious damage in some cases. There is no guarantee that rebuttal of the information will restore a person’s reputation.” It judged that the standard should not be altered just for the Internet.

    Internet users must keep in mind that if they post one-sided claims without backing up the information with evidence, or violate the privacy of others without confirming any of the facts with the person concerned, they may be accused of a crime.

    Irresponsible and excessive words and deeds must not be permitted, regardless of whether they appear on the Internet or elsewhere. In the field of education, efforts are being made to provide instruction with teachers on hand to ensure that children do not get caught up in Internet crimes or engage in harassment online. As more people express themselves on blogs and other online forums, we want teachers to inform children that expression goes hand in hand with responsibility.

    Under the limitation liability law for Internet providers, victims whose rights are violated can ask providers to delete posts or provide information on the ID of the person who posted the data. However, the decision on whether to comply with the request is left up to the provider.

    Responding to the current situation in which child pornography or illegal information on drugs is being left unchecked on the Internet, the National Police Agency is reportedly preparing to actively pursue the criminal responsibility of site administrations who ignore requests to delete the information. Malicious cases of defamation are likely to be included as a matter of course.

    We want everyone to come together to consider the appropriate form of a healthy Internet society.


    社説:ネット中傷有罪 「無責任さ」への警鐘だ
    毎日新聞 2010年3月19日 2時46分












    5 Responses to “Mainichi: Supreme Court defamation ruling sounds warning bell over online responsibility”

    1. Allen Says:

      Ah, the internet. Something I might be able to discuss. Many people on the internet get what is called “E-Courage”. The idea that since you are anonymous, you can say whatever you darn well please and get away with it. This leads to letting everyone let out their true colors and their inner jerks. This leads to everyone letting everyone know how they REALLY feel about how “That guy is totally gay” or how much “I freakin’ hate that guy”. This behavior leads to internet bullying and that, like real bullying, leads to deep psychological distress. In fact, just recently, a Irish immigrant girl in Massachusetts hung herself after being bulled on the internet ( ). Freedom of speech is a right we have, but the law MUST be enforced when the freedom of speech leads to a law broken or a life taken. Violations of human rights on the internet is JUST as important as violation of human rights in real life. I hope laws are set.

    2. Shrikant Atre Says:

      Good one !

      It reminds me of people saying bad things about activism against the J community in their own Japanese blogs, I am sure you can search your name on Japanese language blogs / google and you will get hundreds of such slandering cases, for which you can sue them.

      Coming back to your April 1 funny blog entry, I am sure (:)) that you can earn much more money from those offending Japanese who slander you on their blogs, for no reasons other than you are an activist.

    3. John (Yokohama) Says:


      Verbal = slander (false spoken statement)

      Written = libel (published false statement)


    4. Steve von Maas Says:

      I don’t know how it will work out for you in Japan, but in America, courts tend to be vary wary of making it easier to recover for defamation, as any such changes tend to benefit people in direct proportion to their means. This is because the richer and more powerful I am, the greater advantage I will have in a “marketplace of ideas” which is strongly regulated after-the-fact through the tort system, for reasons including the following:

      1) Whether your criticism is valid or not, and whether you think you will win or lose, you will be more afraid to face the prospect of litigation with me because you will have to hire a lawyer, and I can use my money to make your lawyer have to do a lot of work.
      2) My threat to sue you will be more credible, because I already have lawyers on retainer.
      3) My proving only a slight damage to my reputation, resulting in a 1% decline in sales, might be enough to break you.
      4) To stifle criticism, I don’t need to sue 10,000 people: I only need to sue a few very publicly and make sure everyone knows how much they suffered.
      5) My money and power will make it easier for me to obtain the evidence and information I need to defend myself, to prove the truth of what I want to say about you, or to discover something even better to use against you.
      6) Whether I win or lose, I can more likely “spin” the decision to my advantage through the use of effective public relations or advertising resources. (A great example in the U.S. came from the famous “McDonald’s hot coffee case” in which, although it was not a libel award, the public became overwhelmingly convinced that it was an example of “typical” out-of-control, greedy plaintiffs ripping off corporations in frivolous lawsuits. The real story is quite different, but it doesn’t really matter anymore, because McDonald’s literally changed history by spent nearly three times what they are believed to have paid to settle the case on Madison Avenue types who pulled off the propaganda coup of the decade.)

      This is why we often say here, “The best cure for free speech is MORE free speech. The only way to undue the advantage (level playing field) the “little guy” gets from the internet is to make it easier to sue him for defamation, which is the way the forces of reaction will ultimately silence him.

      — Thanks for your information and knowledge on this subject. Two plot points regarding libel for Japan, from my knowledge on the subject:

      1) “Little Guy” (me) v. “Big Guy” (2-Channel), Little wins (2006): 2-Channel lost against me because I could convincingly prove a) the lie, and b) concrete (and not-so-concrete) damages against my reputation as an activist and educator.

      2) “Big Guy” (Tony Laszlo) v. “Little Guy” (me), Little wins (2004): Multimillionaire and celebrity Tony Laszlo (from manga and upcoming movie “Darling wa Gaikokujin” fame) threatens me and my publisher with libel lawsuit, does not even make it to court because Laszlo a) cannot prove any lies (most importantly, because there weren’t any lies; all assertions made in my JAPANESE ONLY books about his behavior were substantiated in print), and b) thanks to all the income from the “Darling” juggernaut cash cow, cannot prove damages resulting from the JAPANESE ONLY books.

    5. Michelle Says:

      Good one !

      It reminds me of people saying bad things about activism against the J community in their own Japanese blogs, I am sure you can search your name on Japanese language blogs / google and you will get hundreds of such slandering cases, for which you can sue them.

      Coming back to your April 1 funny blog entry, I am sure (:)) that you can earn much more money from those offending Japanese who slander you on their blogs, for no reasons other than you are an activist.

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