SNA: “GOJ targets harmful internet rumors”, including the earthquake being caused by foreign terrorism


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Hi Blog. Here we have GOJ agencies working to stem malicious rumors from proliferating online, including those targeting NJ. Good. It’s also presented (by a news blog) as a debate between those who feel they have a right to know (and feel betrayed by the official media as an information source) and those who feel they can say anything they like about anybody thanks to freedom of speech. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but I’m glad to see somebody official trying to tackle (or, rather, at least thinking about tackling) the issue of hate speech against NJ. But without clear legal guidelines about what constitutes “hate speech” (or for that matter, “immoral information”) in Japan, those who don’t trust the government will no doubt foresee a wave of official censorship. Arudou Debito


Japanese Government Targets “Harmful Rumors”
Shingetsu News Agency 2011.04.13, courtesy MS
By Makiko Segawa

SNA (Tokyo) — The Japanese government has now entered into the business of deciding what citizens may or may not talk about in public.

A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat “rumors” deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the March 11 disaster.

Specifically, these government organizations asserted in a press release that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and that the government must take steps against this trend for the sake of the public good.

Specifically, the project team is sending “letters of request” to such organizations as telephone companies, internet providers, cable television stations, and others, demanding that they “take adequate measures based on the guidelines in response to illegal information.”

The measures envisioned seem to relate primarily to erasing any information from internet sites written by members of the general public that the authorities deem to be harmful to public order and morality. People may also receive warnings.

When the SNA asked the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication to provide concrete examples of how the government tracked down “immoral” information on the internet, the official in charge of the telecommunications bureau said, “We have not carried out any enforcement actions yet. I cannot explain in detail how we are operating since the roles are partly divided according to the ministries involved.”

“What we, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, are doing,” the official added, “is to urge net providers such as NTT and KDDI to follow our guidelines.”

The Telecom Services Association reveals that the following requests have thus far come from the government:

March 17: Erase descriptions of the earthquake as a man-made event
March 24: Erase descriptions about the manufacturers of the troubled nuclear reactors
March 28: Erase claim that the earthquake was caused by foreign terrorism
April 1: Eliminate the pictures of dead bodies posted on blogs

The Telecom Services Association complied with some of the government requests.

Eri Watanabe, a member of FoE Japan, an international NGO dealing with environmental issues, fears that the government’s strategy is a first step to “justify censorship.”

“If the government had conveyed the correct information from the beginning,” she asserts, “then they would have headed off the spread of rumors. The media and the government have not been properly explaining the meaning of radiation level numbers.”

Kazumi Asano, a Tokyo-based blogger, exclaimed, “They are just afraid of people exposing their close connection with TEPCO!”

Ms. Asano claims that she knew in advance that the severity of the nuclear accident would be raised to a 7 because she heard it from friends who work as TEPCO engineers.

“It is the blogs that are revealing the facts to the public,” she contends.

“The government cannot track down all of us and eliminate the people’s freedom of expression!”





Makiko Segawa is a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency.

10 comments on “SNA: “GOJ targets harmful internet rumors”, including the earthquake being caused by foreign terrorism

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    “It is the blogs that are revealing the facts to the people”
    Try this for a fact:

  • Government censorship on the Internet? I hate to be the buzzkill here, but for instance what if the GOJ deems this website as spreading ‘illegal information’? (and for that matter, how do they define such information?) I don’t know if it’s just me being paranoid, but I’d take this particular piece of news with a grain of salt.

  • Debito, doesn’t it strike you as odd that two of the four seem totally within the realm of public right to know (reactor manufacturer info and dead body pics)?

    With the incompetence of the Jgov on full display, we need freedom of speech now rather than a few morsels of pretend enforcement tossed to us NJ. I say that because, frankly, no one of any intelligence will believe the earthquakes were caused by terrorism. The bloggers, however, are bringing out all the important details (TEPCO wining and dining the worthless lapdog journalists in China, etc…). It is inevitable that a government with censorship power will censor embarassing information. This is a first step. We must bring it to a halt.

    As someone who desires the success of our adopted homeland, would you join me in saying that the practice of 天下り is far more dangerous than baseless rumors spread on Internet forums about terra-wrists causing a shindo 7 earthquake? Certainly, the incompetent TEPCO chain of command should have convinced you of how such a group could physically damage this great nation.

  • Even if (and that’s a big “if”) you believe that the government should censor speech in the name of preventing the spread of misinformation or deterring hate crimes, what is wrong with “descriptions about the manufacturers of the troubled nuclear reactors” or “pictures of dead bodies posted on blogs”? These things are not inherently related to misinformation or hatred of foreigners.

    The Japanese government has vastly overstepped its bounds, should be ashamed of itself, and deserves to get a one-fingered salute from the private companies it’s trying to bully into toeing its arbitrary line. Of course, this being Japan, that kind of pushback from the private sector will never happen, but I can dream…

  • “The Japanese government has vastly overstepped its bounds, should be ashamed of itself, and deserves to get a one-fingered salute from the private companies it’s trying to bully into toeing its arbitrary line. Of course, this being Japan, that kind of pushback from the private sector will never happen, but I can dream….”

    I agree that the Japanese and international community have been left in the dark too long about the incident and measures taken. How about the Japanese government publicly condemning this kind of hate speech and xenophobia instead of censoring the net?

  • And this is posted under “Good news”? I heard the forbidden fruit is the sweetest one, isn’t it? So the more they censor the anti-NJ posts, the more the latter are likely to appear, or am I wrong?

    IMHO if GOJ is to take any measures for this case, it rather should officially announce its position against the “foreign terrorism” as a possible source of the earthquake.

    On the other hand, as Jbm (#3) and Ju2tin (#4) have pointed out, they now seem to put the whole gaijin stuff into the same basket with the manufacturers of the troubled nuclear reactor… well, I’m not gonna be the first one to welcome that.

  • Well, I still have many questions about the capabilities of the HAARP system, and having worked at one of the HAARP contractors’ companies under non-disclosure, “I know that there are unknowns”, to misquote Donald Rumsfeld (spit!). What those unknowns are, I honestly cannot say. (Honestly!)

    That said, I cannot help wondering if some of the secrecy at Fukushima is born of a need for concealment of a nuclear program that the GOJ does not want made public, like another “cannot confirm or deny” country the size of New Jersey sitting on 400+/- warheads in the Eastern Mediterranean. I found this musing while surfing, and it pretty much sums up what I suspect, cannot prove, but wouldn’t surprise me: Is Japan’s Elite Hiding a Weapons Program Inside Nuclear Plants?

    Would someone like to ask Kan? See Kan squirm…

  • james grey says:

    The question you should be asking yourselves is what is the GOJ hoping to conceal by having that information removed from the public domain? The reasons they give are just excuses. They can’t actually say what they hope to conceal, can they.
    For a start, I would suggest overlooked safety checks at the plant, under-qualified workers at the plant, where the TEPCO directors were (and therefore out of the loop) during the start of the crisis (China is the current rumor), breach of copyright on the GE reactor design by Toshiba and Hitachi, links between the TEPCO board and high level public servants, the amount of public money the GOJ will now throw at TEPCO to save it’s low stock price from causing bankruptcy, insufficient supplies of protective equipment and training at the plant, slow and poor decision making for the first week (or two) of the crisis, GOJ suppression of radiation fall-out predictions until they were 3 weeks out of date, I could go on…


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