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Japan: Major Parties Cooperate to Legislate Regulation of “Harmful” Internet Content

Japanese bloggers have been making noise the past few days [ja] in reaction to two separate bills, submitted first by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) and next by the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), each aiming, in apparently similar ways, to legislate regulation over Internet content deemed to be “harmful” to minors (users under age 18).

On March 19th, LDP Diet Member Takaichi Sanae submitted a bill to a government panel to legislate the “prevention of browsing on the Internet of information harmful to young people” in an attempt to maintain the “sound upbringing of young people”. Shortly thereafter on April 2nd, Diet Member Takai Miho of the Democratic Party submitted a bill with the aim to create an environment that “makes it possible for children to safely use the Internet”. According to bloggers, the bills go significantly further than earlier legislation introduced late last year, which mandated default filtering on mobile phones for minors. Nonetheless, aside from a single article in Asahi shimbun [ja] on the topic, the two bills appear to have been granted no mainstream media attention.

The bills follow on a recent trend of increasing moves toward regulation of the Internet in Japan, but according to bloggers, this time Diet Members Takaichi and Takai are going significantly further — and advancing legislation significantly faster — than in the case of earlier proposals. Blogger Mishima Sakana at Osakana Blog explains:

18歳未満の人たちがインターネット上の「有害情報」に触れないようにする対策を講じる法律案ってのが、3月の中頃から末頃にかけて、姿を現してきた。朝日新聞の記事では少し紹介されているが、それ以外の大手マスコミには全然出てない。っていうか、ペーパーメディアの人間は全然ヤバさを認識してない。あるいは、分かっててトボけている。この法律案、ものすごくヤバい

Between mid and late March, a legislative bill has taken shape setting out counter-measures to prevent minors under the age of 18 from coming into contact with “harmful information” on the Internet. An article in Asahi shimbun introduced the topic a bit, but other than that nothing has come out in the mainstream media. Or better to say, people in the paper media are not aware at all of the dangerousness of this bill. Either that or they know, and they are just playing dumb. This bill is horribly dangerous.

He then reviews developments over the past month:

  1. 自民党の高市早苗議員が、『青少年の健全な育成のためのインターネットによる青少年有害情報の閲覧の防止等に関する法律案』という法案を詰めていて、これはかなり完成形になっている。池田信夫氏によれば、ブレーンとして警察官僚がついて条文を固めたらしいし、確かに法案の中にはそれをうかがわせる傍証もある(12条のネットカフェ規制とか)。
  2. 一方民主党の高井美穂議員を事務局等とするプロジェクトチームは、『子供が安全に安心してインターネットを利用できる環境の整備等に関する法律案』というのを取りまとめている(ちなみに先の高市議員と高井議員は、国会議員の電話番号なんかが載っている「国会議員要覧」で見ると、仲良くお隣同士だ)。
  3. これらの法案の目的は、「性に関する価値観の形成に著しく悪影響を及ぼす」とか「著しい心理的外傷を与える恐れがある」とかそういうインターネット上の「有害」な情報について、青少年が見られなくなるよう全部フィルタリングすること。
  4. これらの法案が、今期国会の混乱のドサクサに紛れて提出され、あっさり自民党案が通っちゃい兼ねない空気になっている(と自民党議員は言っている)。
  1. Takaichi Sanae of the Liberal Democratic Party has worked out details of a bill, the “legislative bill regarding prevention of browsing on the Internet of information harmful to young people for sound upbringing of young people” [Global Voices translation], and this is very much in a completed form. According to Ikeda Nobuo, police bureaucrats are apparently the brains that established the provisions, and within the bill there is probably also supporting evidence that indicates this [involvement] (the regulation of Internet Cafes in Article 12).
  2. On the other hand, the project team organized by Diet Member Takai Miho of the Democratic Party has coordinated a “legislative bill regarding the improvement and so on of an environment making it possible for children to safely use the Internet” (and incidentally, if you look at the “Directory of Members of the National Diet”(国会議員要覧) where Diet Members Takaichi and Takai have their phone numbers listed, you will see that they are cozily listed next to each other).
  3. The purpose of these bills is to implement complete filtering to make “harmful” information on the Internet, information that “exerts a harmful influence equivalent to the form of values about sex” or that “risks causing considerable psychological wounds”, impossible for young people to see.
  4. These bills were submitted in the confusion in the Diet this term, and there is an atmosphere that the LDP bill might actually be quickly passed (that is what LDP Diet members are saying).

The main concerns, he explains, are the following:

  1. 内閣府に設置される少人数の青少年健全育成推進委員会(最大数5人)っていう組織が、インターネット上の全てのコンテンツについて、青少年に有害か無害かについての判断基準を作成します。ちなみにその基準への異議申し立ては、多分無理。(法案19条から31条)
  2. 個人も含む全てのウェブサイトの管理者は、上記の有害コンテンツの基準に合致した場合、サイトを丸ごと未成年が入れない会員制にするか、フィルタリングソフトへ自らのサイトをフィルタ対象として申請することなどが、求められます。(3条1項)
  3. 全てのISP、ASP事業者などには、有害コンテンツの削除やサービスの停止が求められ、従わない場合の罰則も設けられます。結果としてウェブコンテンツの削除は行われることになります。(3条)
  4. 全てのPC・携帯電話について、国の基準に基づいたフィルタリングソフトウェアをプレインストール、あるいは、フィルタリングサービスに強制加入することが、PCメーカー(努力義務)及びキャリア(提供義務)に求められます。(5条、8条)
  1. An organization made up of a small number of people, established by the Cabinet Office and called the “Committee on the Promotion of Sound Upbringing of Young People” [Global Voices translation, original Japanese: 青少年健全育成推進委員会/Seishounen Kenzen Ikusei Suishin Iinkai] (at most five people), is drawing up evaluation criteria, for all content on the Internet, defining what is and is not harmful to young people. And incidentally, declarations of objection to this standard are probably impossible. (Articles 19 to 31)
  2. Administrators of all websites, including individuals, will also be required, in cases where the contents of their site meets the above standards for harmful content, to do things such as implement a membership system on the whole site so that minors cannot access it, or apply to have filtering software applied to their own site. (Article 3 Item 1)
  3. All employees of ISPs, ASPs, and so on are required to eliminate all harmful content and suspend all harmful services, and there is a punishment being put in place for cases in which these rules are not followed. As a result, deletion of web content will be carried out. (Article 3)
  4. Compulsory participation in the pre-installation of national standards-based filtering software or filtering services will be imposed on PC makers (obligation to make efforts [努力義務]) as well as carriers (obligation to provide [提供義務]) for all PCs and mobile phones. (Article 5, Article 8)

Blogger Ikeda Nobuo has been another forceful critic of Internet regulation by the government. In an entry posted on March 3rd [ja] (referenced above, see also another post in English), he writes:

まず「青少年有害情報」の定義が広範囲に及び、「〜を誘発するもの」とか「〜おそれがあるもの」というように「青少年健全育成推進委員会」の裁量によってどうにでも解釈できる曖昧な表現が多い。

First of all, the definition of “information harmful to young people” covers a broad range, and there are many vague expressions like “something that causes …” and “something that poses a danger of …” that can be interpreted at the discretion of the “Committee on the Promotion of Sound Upbringing of Young People” [Global Voices translation, see earlier note].

もっとも問題なのは、第9・10条の行政処分と第51条の罰則である。携帯電話では、すでにフィルタリングが業界の自主規制で行なわれており、携帯電話は寡占市場なので、あえて公権力が介入する必要があるとは思われない。逆にインターネットでは、ISPは2000以上あり、そのすべてを監視し、是正命令を出すのは不可能だ。「みせしめ」的に特定のISPが摘発されるおそれが強い。

The greatest problem is in the administrative measures of Articles 9 and 10, and in the penal regulations of Article 51. In the case of mobile phones, filtering is already being carried out through regulation self-imposed by industry, and the mobile phone industry is an oligopoly, so there does not appear to be any need for governmental authorities to intervene. On the contrary, there are more than 2000 ISPs in the Internet, and it is impossible to inspect every everything and issue correction orders. There is a strong danger that specific ISPs will be exposed as a kind of “warning” [to other ISPs].

The articles in the LDP bill to which Ikeda makes reference are the following (taken from the above blog post):

第9条(是正命令) 主務大臣等は、インターネット接続役務提供事業者に対し、是正命令を出すことができる。

Article 9 (correction order): The cabinet minister in charge can issue a correction order to businesses offering Internet connection services [Internet service providers].

第10条(立ち入り検査) 主務大臣等は、インターネット接続役務提供事業者に対し、その営業所に立ち入り、業務の状況又は帳簿、書類その他の物件を検査させることができる。

Article 10 (on-site inspection): The cabinet minister in charge can enter the business offices of businesses offering Internet connection services [Internet service providers] and can inspect the conditions of business, as well as registers, documents and other articles.

第51条(罰則) 第9条又は第13条の規定による命令に違反した者は、6月以下の懲役又は百万円以下の罰金に処する。

Article 51 (punishment): Persons who violate directives issued according to provisions of Article 9 or Article 13 will face a penalty of less than six months of penal servitude or one million yen [about $10,000 USD].

Many other bloggers are also talking about the proposed regulation. Worried about what will happen to “minority” children who depend on the Internet as a place to connect and get help, blogger essa quips that “you can't protect your children unless you properly choose your politicians” [ja]. In a similar vein, blogger ratio – rational – irrational worries about the classification of “same-sex relationships” as “harmful content” [ja]. At Social Web Rambling, blogger namekawa01 asks [ja] if, with the new regulation bill, politics is returning to a “new 1955 system“. Elsewhere, OhmyNews Japan presents a detailed outline of the LDP bill [ja] through the words of Diet Member Takaichi herself, and CNET offers an overview of both LDP and DPJ bills [ja].

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