Japan Today & Yomiuri: Criminal charges against Internet bullies


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Hi Blog. Further to my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column earlier this week, here is somebody else who is finally taking action against Internet stalkers and bullies. Smiley Kikuchi, a comedian (whose name is listed in today’s Yomiuri), has finally gotten the NPA to get off their asses and actually prosecute people criminally for posting threatening messages.

Good for him. I get death threats all too frequently. The first time I got a major death threat, the police did nothing except take the threat letter, hold it for six years, and send it back with “inconclusive results”. The second time, much the same. In Smiley’s case, the messages were posted directly to his blog, by fools who didn’t realize that (unlike 2channel) their IP addresses would be visible.

Given how inept I consider the NPA to be about enforcing its own mandate, or even court decisions, I usually just delete messages to my blog that are malicious or threatening in tone. Now, thanks to Smiley, they just might be legally actionable. Thanks, Smiley. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


18 people to be prosecuted over insulting messages on comedian’s blog


TOKYO —Police plan to establish a criminal case against 18 men and women on charges of allegedly posting a number of defamatory messages on a comedian’s blog, police sources said Thursday.

In launching what is believed to be the first such move associated with mass attacks on a blog in Japan, the Metropolitan Police Department said the 18 people, aged from 17 to 45, posted defamatory messages suggesting that the 37-year-old comedian is the perpetrator in the 1988 murder of a high school girl in Tokyo.

Some of the messages included: “How can a murderer be a comedian?” and “Die, you murderer,” according to police.

Investigators, acting on a complaint filed by the comedian, have identified those who posted the messages and decided to establish a criminal case against them, the sources said.

Among the 18 are a 17-year-old high school girl from Sapporo, a 35-year-old man from Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, and a 45-year-old man from Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture.

The suspects allegedly defamed the comedian by posting malicious comments between January and April 2008, suggesting that the comedian was involved in the highly publicized murder case in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward in 1988, which resulted in prison sentences for four minors.

The comedian, whose name has been withheld, launched his career about 10 years ago, characterizing himself as ‘‘an ex-hoodlum from Adachi Ward,’’ which apparently attracted the messages connecting him to the brutal murder that came to light after the girl’s remains were found in a drum filled with concrete.

He temporarily closed his blog due to the flood of malignant messages but reopened it in January last year, only to draw the defamatory messages again.

Investigators believe dozens of people have posted several hundred vicious messages on the blog, the sources said.

This is probably the first criminal case to be built over intense online attacks on a particular blog, the National Police Agency said.

The latest move by police came amid an increasing number of ‘‘flaming’’ blogs, particularly blogs by celebrities, TV personalities and notable sports athletes.

In one case, a commentator’s blog was forced to close in 2006 due to a flood of slanderous messages, and a man was arrested and given a suspended prison term the following year for threatening the commentator on Japan’s largest anonymous electronic bulletin board ‘‘2channel.’’



Papers sent on woman over flaming of comedian
The Yomiuri Shimbun Feb. 6, 2009


Police on Thursday sent papers to prosecutors on a woman suspected of threatening to kill a well-known comedian in a message she posted on his blog after wrongly concluding he was involved in a girl’s murder in 1989.

According to the police, the 29-year-old woman, a temporary worker from Kawasaki, has admitted posting the message on the blog of Smiley Kikuchi, 37, who regularly appears on TV.

The Metropolitan Police Department also plans to send papers to prosecutors on 18 people suspecting of defaming Kikuchi by posting hundreds of malicious messages between January and April 2008.

The woman reportedly believed messages on the blog that claimed Kikuchi had been involved in the murder and “couldn’t forgive him.”

The woman sent a message from her computer on Dec. 26 to the comedian’s blog saying, “I’ll kill you,” police said.

Online bulletin boards and a blog set up by Kikuchi in January 2008 were flooded with messages suggesting he was involved in the murder of the high school girl in Adachi Ward, Tokyo. Her body was abandoned in a cement-filled drum.

Kikuchi restricted access to the blog’s message board in April and filed a complaint with the police. He lifted the restrictions on Dec. 24.

According to the police, the woman came to the conclusion that the comedian and late TV personality Ai Iijima were involved in the murder. The woman based her belief on information she found on Iijima’s Web site and several other sites after learning from media reports that Iijima had been found dead in her Shibuya Ward apartment on Dec. 24.

“I thought I could never forgive people who had been party to a crime like murder,” the woman reportedly told police.

The 18 people, aged between 17 and 45, allegedly made groundless accusations on the blog that the comedian is a murderer.

The case is an example of flaming, which refers to personal and/or defamatory attacks by users against others on Internet bulletin boards, chat rooms, Web pages and blogs over the target user’s attitude or remarks.
(Feb. 6, 2009)



Update: One more from the Japan Times

NPA probes 19 over slander on comedian’s blog
The Japan Times: Friday, Feb. 6, 2009

By REIJI YOSHIDA Staff writer

In a rare Internet crackdown, police have turned over to prosecutors their case against a 29-year-old woman and plan to hand another 18 suspects over for abusive comments posted on the blog of a 37-year-old Japanese comedian, police sources said Thursday.

The 29-year-old Kawasaki woman allegedly posted a death threat on the blog of comedian Smiley Kikuchi, writing “I will kill you” in December, a police source said.

The other 18 include a 17-year-old girl and 45-year-old man, who allegedly posted messages last year claiming the comedian was involved in the murder of a high school girl in 1988, the source said.

The allegation is groundless and police are sending the cases to prosecutors on suspicion of defamation, the source said.

This case is likely the first crackdown on what is known in Internet parlance as a flame attack, or “enjo” in Japanese, as far as the National Policy Agency knows, an NPA official told The Japan Times.

Many bloggers, including well-known TV celebrities, have been flamed recently, and many have shut down their blogs because of the rumors or abusive language.

In Kikuchi’s case, anonymous Internet users have been accusing the comedian of participating in the murder of a high school girl who was encased in concrete and dumped.

Hundreds of messages denouncing him as a murderer have reportedly been posted on the blog and many other Web sites recently.

Kikuchi and his agent, Ohta Production Inc., initially declined comment out of fear of drawing further attacks on the Web. But Kikuchi released a comment later in the day saying the information in circulation contains factual errors.

“For about 10 years, I, Smiley Kikuchi, have been suffering from slanderous remarks from anonymous people all over the Internet,” he said.

“All (of the Web allegations) are groundless. . . . The attacks have escalated to the point where I myself feel my life is in danger,” he said in a written statement.

He also said that some media reports said a TV agency once marketed Kikuchi using the catchphrase “former delinquent boy,” but that the reports were all wrong.

“I express my deep appreciation to the police officers who conducted the investigation and pray that an incident like this will never happen again,” he said.
The Japan Times: Friday, Feb. 6, 2009


4 comments on “Japan Today & Yomiuri: Criminal charges against Internet bullies

  • Hmmm…better be careful here, we may be arrested for thinking impure thoughts!

    It is one thing to cite abuse at someone, but it is another to libel someone. Abuse, in most forms, is freedom of speech. But since Japans current incumbents in the legislator role do not hold freedoms up too highly, unless it is their own version, this is the slippery slope.

    If the comedian, for example, was found guilty, the blogs are factual. If he was found not guilty, the blogs are just abuse/criticism, if not unkind.

    As has been noted before recently, bloggers should have their ISP entered when joining a blog, so their is 100% traceability. But, the law needs to be clear too…since what difference is there in shouting “..i hate you i wish you were dead”.. at someone, compared to writing it? There is such a thing as intent, it is one of the biggest obstacles to freedom of speech and expression that those whom are the recipients cite. Social order is placed above social freedoms. However, a small minority may actually have serious intent, as there is in any society, but, separating the wheat from the chaff, is tricky. But to legislate all, owing to a minority is the same as burning all the books…

    I fear Japan will throw the baby out with the bath water…

  • John, I think you misunderstand how IP addresses work. Most people have dynamic IP addresses that will change every so often based on the service provider. Let’s say an ISP has 100 customers, they will only have 50-70 IP addresses because you will never have all of your customers on at the same time. It is often difficult to track down who had what IP address at a certain time. If you don’t believe check out the problems the RIAA is having tracking down file downloaders in the US.

    Another big problem is that you can spoof IP and Mac addresses, meaning I can pretend to be someone else. If I knew yours I could send a death threat to Smiley that looks like it’s from you. Do you still think it’s a full proof way to find out who really posted the comments?

    You could also us a proxy server to look up the web page. The great firewall of China blocks certain IP addresses, but if you use a proxy server it looks like that server’s IP address is coming into china, not the actual page you’re viewing. There are thousands and thousands of free proxies around the world so anonymously posting is still no problem.

    I also have to disagree with you when you say, “If the comedian, for example, was found guilty, the blogs are factual. If he was found not guilty, the blogs are just abuse/criticism, if not unkind.” Um, no. You can’t go around saying that Smiley is a murder if he isn’t because it damages his reputation, ability to have money and have a normal life. Clearly there were enough people who believed it to make death threats. That is the legal definition of slander.

  • YYZ
    I’m not a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, if ” a body of people” really wanted to ensure blogs are by someone who can always be traced, then it is possible. The will just is not there yet…

    I have no idea where you live, but in a free society any public figure is fair game, whether they like it or not. This recent verbal just goes to show that the UKs PM is not immune…
    and the same is true in reverse

    Freedom of speech/expression has clearly different definitions in different parts of the world!

  • “If the comedian, for example, was found guilty, the blogs are factual. If he was found not guilty, the blogs are just abuse/criticism, if not unkind.”

    Even if he had been found guilty, it still counts as harrassment and he can still seek legal options.


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