Internet freedom continued to improve in Japan during this reporting period. There are few obstacles to internet access, no blocks on websites, and the legal framework provides strong protections for various forms of expression. People can freely use the internet to mobilize, and netizens did so during the reporting period, notably to protest discrimination against women and LGBT+ communities. However, harassment and intimidation, particularly against women and individuals with at least one Black parent, persist. During the COVID-19 pandemic, medical personnel were also targets for harassment on social media.
Japan is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has governed almost continuously since 1955, with stints in opposition from 1993 to 1994 and 2009 to 2012. Political rights and civil liberties are generally well respected. Outstanding challenges include ethnic and gender-based discrimination and claims of improperly close relations between government and the business sector.
- Japanese courts continue to uphold strict criteria for delisting search results on major platforms. In June 2020, the Tokyo High Court reversed a lower court ruling that Twitter must remove posts which detailed the plaintiff’s arrest records (see B3).
- An online petition that received 145,000 signatures called for the resignation of the chairman of the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Yoshiro Mori, after he made sexist comments. Mori resigned a week after the petition was created (see B8).
- In January 2021, the revised Copyright Act, which criminalizes the downloading of unlicensed manga, magazines, and academic publications, took effect. Authorities have used the law to convict the operators of manga piracy site Mangamura (see C2 and C3).
- No major incidents of physical violence related to people’s online activity were reported during the coverage period, though incidents of online harassment and intimidation, particularly against women, individuals with at least one Black parent, and medical personnel, did occur (see C7).
|Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections?||6.006 6.006|
Due in part to strong infrastructure, internet access is widely available to users in Japan. The Inclusive Internet Index 2021 report ranks Japan 17th out of 120 countries surveyed in terms of availability, determined by quality and breadth of available infrastructure.1 As of 2021, the internet penetration rate for households stood at 93 percent.2
Providers continue to develop telecommunications infrastructure, in part to alleviate mobile network congestion. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank all launched commercial fifth-generation (5G) services in March 2020.3 Rakuten Mobile partnered with electronics firm NEC to launch 5G services, originally planned for June 2020. After a three-month delay in rollout due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rakuten Mobile launched 5G services in September 2020.4 The government has also invested heavily in Wi-Fi networks in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were postponed and held in August 2021.5 Some companies offer free Wi-Fi, including the private company Wire and Wireless (Wi2), part of the KDDI group, which provides free internet access in restaurants, coffee shops, and train stations; registration requires an email address.6 Wi-Fi access has been tied to mobile subscriptions in the past, which presents a barrier for users without contracts.7
Connectivity is occasionally restricted accidentally or due to network congestion and server outages. According to a summary by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), since 2014, there have been fewer severe outages - specifically three to eight per year- compared to the previous decade.8 In February 2020, data communication was unavailable for a few hours for mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Mineo customers.9 Infrastructure was also severely damaged in 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s east coast, triggering the destruction of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Many people lost service for days or weeks, and mobile phone usage dropped by almost half in the affected areas.10
- 1. “Japan – Availability,” The Inclusive Internet Index, 2020, https://theinclusiveinternet.eiu.com/explore/countries/JP/?category=ava….
- 2. https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-japan
- 3. “NTT Docomo becomes first to launch 5G service in Japan,” The Japan Times, March 25, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/25/business/ntt-docomo-become…
- 4. Juan Pedro Tomás, “Rakuten Mobile delays 5G launch due to COVID-19 pandemic,” RCR Wireless News, May 15, 2020, https://www.fiercewireless.com/5g/rakuten-mobile-launches-5g-service-bu…;
- 5. Tim Hornyak, “Hot spot: Is Tokyo finally going wireless?,” The Japan Times, July 9, 2016, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/07/09/digital/hot-spot-tokyo-fin….
- 6. Starbucks, “at_STARBUCKS_Wi2,” http://starbucks.wi2.co.jp/pc/index_en.html.
- 7. Nevin Thompson, “Japan Finally Gets Free Public WiFi… Just Not For Japanese Residents” Global Voices, September 18, 2016, https://globalvoices.org/2016/09/18/japan-finally-gets-free-public-wifi….
- 8. Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, "電気通信サービスの事故発生状況（令和元年度）[Incidents in Telecommunications Services (FY2019)]," September 4, 2020, https://www.soumu.go.jp/main_content/000705597.pdf.
- 9. "mineo、2月11日に発生した通信障害の原因と対策を発表 [mineo announces causes and countermeasures for communication failure that occurred on February 11th],” ITmedia Mobile, Mar 11, 2020, https://www.itmedia.co.jp/mobile/articles/2003/11/news100.html.
- 10. Izumi Aizu, “The Role of ICTs During the Disaster,” Global Information Society Watch Report 2011, Association for Progressive Communications, 2011, http://www.ispp.jp/ispp-wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/EarthquakeICT0825….
|Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons?||2.002 3.003|
Access to the internet remains relatively equal across different segments of the population. Increasing smartphone use has made the mobile market more competitive and resulted in improved pricing options, although the cost of service can otherwise be quite high.
According to the Inclusive Internet Index 2021 report, Japan ranks 12th out of 100 countries surveyed for affordability, defined by cost of access relative to income and the level of competition in the internet market.1 Government statistics show that the average cost of internet access for households with two or more people across Japan in 2020 was ¥3,601 ($34.59) compared with ¥3,753 ($36.05) in 2017.2 Sharp regional cost disparities exist; service was more expensive in Japan’s major cities in 2020, with customers paying an average of ¥3,835 ($36.89) per month. Customers in small cities, towns, and villages paid an average monthly price of nearly ¥3,024 ($29.04). Connectivity for households in the heavily populated Kantō region, which includes Tokyo, costs nearly ¥1,300 ($12.49) more per month than in the least expensive regions, Tohokuin the northeast.3 Many providers bundle digital media subscriptions, including cable television, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services, and email, pushing costs higher.
Access is well distributed across the population, though access is less common among the elderly.4 Mobile service operators are expanding the market for handsets designed for children and the elderly, with easy-to-use, large button designs.
- 1. “Japan – Affordability,” Inclusive Internet Index, 2020, https://theinclusiveinternet.eiu.com/explore/countries/JP/?category=aff….
- 2. Katei shōhi jyōkyō chōsa nenpō (2019 nendo) [Household Consumption Survey in Japanese], Statistics Japan, https://www.stat.go.jp/data/joukyou/12.html.
- 3. “家計消費状況調査 調査結果 [Household Consumption Survey Statistics Tables],” Statistics Japan, https://www.stat.go.jp/data/joukyou/12.html
- 4. “通信利用動向調査 [Communication usage trend survey],” Information & Communications Statistics Database, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 2018, https://www.soumu.go.jp/johotsusintokei/statistics/statistics05a.html.
|Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity?||6.006 6.006|
Japan’s telecommunications infrastructure is advanced, and there have been no reports of the government deliberately disconnecting telecommunications service. There is full competition in the ownership of gateways to the international internet.1 Historically, Japan’s internet connections were forged through cooperation among government agencies (including then government-owned NTT), universities, and national research institutions.2
- 1. “Japan Profile (2018),” ITU ICT-Eye, 2018, https://www.itu.int/itu-d/apis/clients/res/pdf/country_profile/report_J….
- 2. “The Internet Timeline,” Japan Network Information Center, March 1, 2018, https://www.nic.ad.jp/timeline/en/.
|Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?||5.005 6.006|
While users have a choice of providers for internet services, certain companies dominate the market.
Japan has three major mobile operators—au, a KDDI brand; NTT Docomo; and SoftBank. The NTT group remains dominant in practice, though hundreds of other providers offer services including fiber-optic connections and fixed-line or wireless broadband access.1 A new player, e-commerce company Rakuten, which seeks to become Japan’s fourth major mobile service provider, launched its mobile service in April 2020.2
In January 2021, the three major mobile phone companies launched new low-cost plans, after decades of pressure from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.3 Rakuten, in an effort to gain a competitive edge, launched cheaper plans in April 2021 compared to those offered by the other three mobile service providers. However, there is some criticism that the ongoing price war has prevented smaller companies from entering the market.4 No major foreign operators have successfully penetrated the telecommunications market independently.
NTT, formerly a state monopoly, was privatized in 1985 and reorganized in 1999 under a law promoting functional separation between the company’s mobile, fixed-line telephone, and internet services.5 Asymmetric regulation, which creates stricter rules for providers with a higher market share, has helped diversify the industry.6
Beginning in 2014, the government required mobile service providers to unlock SIM cards at user request; this has made it easier for users to switch providers and use third-party prepaid SIM cards.7 Although that year’s guidelines from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) garnered criticism, they helped address concerns that the cost of switching providers favored dominant players and created a barrier for new market entrants.8 Besides benefiting Japanese consumers,9 the change was expected to allow tourists who were supposed to visit Japan during the 2020 Summer Olympics to more easily access mobile services.10
- 1. Minoru Sugaya, “Regulation and Competition in the JP Broadband Market,” Pacific Telecommunications Council, January 15, 2012, https://docplayer.net/3877315-Regulation-and-competition-in-the-jp-broa….
- 2. “Rakuten taking limited orders for services on its delayed Japan mobile network,” The Japan Times, October 1, 2019 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/10/01/business/corporate-busines…; Catherine Shu, “Rakuten Mobile's low-cost data plan fully launches in Japan,” TechCrunch, April 8, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/08/rakuten-mobiles-low-cost-data-plan-fu….
- 3. "Japan’s big three carriers drop prices but plans roughly the same," Asahi Shimbun, January 14, 2021. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14106201.
- 4. 西田宗千佳, 2020, 西田宗千佳, 2020, "政府の「携帯料金値下げ」は何が問題か 競争を削ぐ“その場しのぎ”の先にあるもの [What's wrong with the government's "mobile phone price cuts"? What lies beyond the "stopgap" measures to reduce competition]," IT Media News, October 16, 2020. https://www.itmedia.co.jp/news/articles/2010/16/news106.htmll.
- 5. “Law Concerning Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, Etc., No. 85,” Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, as amended last by Law No. 87, July 26, 2005, https://www.soumu.go.jp/main_sosiki/joho_tsusin/eng/Resources/laws/NTTL….
- 6. Toshiya Jitsuzumi, “An Analysis of Prerequisites for Japan’s Approach to Network Neutrality,” Proceedings of the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, 2012, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2030029.
- 7. Kazuaki Nagata, “Unlocking carriers' SIM hold on cellphones: Will competition heat up?,” The Japan Times, December 16, 2014, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/12/16/reference/unlocking-carrie….
- 8. Teppei Kasai, “Japan's wireless carriers told to unlock phones starting next year,” Reuters, October 31, 2014, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-mobilephone-simcards/japans-wi….
- 9. Philip Brasor and Masako Tsubuku, “Phone users in Japan still paying for plenty of stuff they don’t need,” The Japan Times, May 23, 2015, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/23/business/economy-business/….
- 10. “Narita airport to get SIM card vending machines,” The Japan Times, July 17, 2015, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/17/business/tech/narita-airpo….
|Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?||2.002 4.004|
The telecommunications, internet, and broadcast sectors are regulated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) rather than an independent commission. Some self-regulatory bodies also manage content and other issues.
Observers argue that the industry has generally improved since the MIC was established in 2001, which resulted from the merger of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and the government’s Management and Coordination Agency.1
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supported by the relevant companies in these three sectors perform a self-regulatory function. They include television’s Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization and the Internet Content Safety Association, which manages the blocking of child sexual abuse images online.2 Observers have accused MIC officials and the prime minister's office of trying to restrict or influence content under the broadcast law.3
There are substantial concerns that MIC officials are increasingly influenced by business executives who use gifts to garner favor for their policies from government officials. After NTT Docomo became a wholly owned subsidiary of NTT in December 2020,4 competitors and others criticized the acquisition, saying it was contrary to the intent of the 1999 NTT Law. Despite this pushback, the MIC supported NTT.5 In February 2021, weekly news magazine Shukan Bunshun reported that NTT's president and other executives had repeatedly treated officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, including Deputy Director General Yasuhiko Taniwaki, to lavish dinners.6 Taniwaki, who had been instrumental in the government’s policies on mobile phone prices, was quickly transferred to another position.7
In March 2021, the Cabinet approved Shunichi Tokura, the former chairman of the Japan Music Rights Association (JASRAC), as Commissioner for Cultural Affairs. The Agency for Cultural Affairs has jurisdiction over copyright law and provides guidance and supervision to copyright management organizations, including JASRAC. Due to Tokura’s previous position and his lobbying efforts on behalf of JASRAC, his appointment sparked concerns about his ability to balance protecting the rights of artists and creators while also ensuring the freedom of individuals who use copyrighted works.8
- 1. Before 2001, regulation was managed by the now-defunct Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, and before that, the Diet.
- 2. Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization, “About BPO,” Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization, 2020, https://www.bpo.gr.jp/?page_id=1092; Content Evaluation and Monitoring Association, “About EMA,” 2016, http://ema.mcf.or.jp/en/index.html; “About the Organization,” Internet Content Safety Association, 2020, http://www.netsafety.or.jp/.
- 3. “Preliminary observations by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. David Kaye at the end of his visit to Japan (12-19 April 2016),” OHCHR, April 19, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19842; "Freedom of Opinion and Expression - Annual reports," OHCHR, June 2020, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/Annual.aspx.
- 4. https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/info/media_center/pr/2020/pdf/engli…
- 5. "許認可握る構図、放送と同じ [The same structure for holding licenses and permits as for broadcasting]," The Asahi Shimbun, March 5, 2021, "Another probe launched into possible ministry ethics violations," The Asahi Shimbun, March 5, 2021, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14243097.
- 6. "一人10万円超も NTTが山田前広報官と谷脇総務審議官に高額接待 [NTT paid over 100,000 yen per person to former Public Relations Officer Yamada and Deputy Director-General Taniwaki]," 週刊文春, March 3, 2021, https://bunshun.jp/articles/-/43785. "内部文書入手 NTTが総務大臣、副大臣も接待していた [NTT treated the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Vice Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications]," 週刊文春, March 10, 2021, https://bunshun.jp/articles/-/43953.
- 7. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-politics-scandal/japan-ministe…
- 8. "文化庁長官にJASRAC特別顧問 中立性に懸念 [JASRAC Special Advisor to Agency for Cultural Affairs Commissioner, concerned about neutrality]," The Asahi Shimbun, March 6, 2021, https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASP35555HP35UTIL02T.html.
|Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||6.006 6.006|
Score Change: The score improved from 5 to 6 because the government did not block any websites or platforms during the coverage period.
Authorities typically do not order service providers to block or filter content in Japan.
In July 2020, lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party urged the government to restrict the use of TikTok over concerns that Chinese officials might be able to access sensitive user data via the app.1 At the end of the coverage period, the government had not taken steps to restrict use of the platform.
In April 2018, the government asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block manga piracy sites, including Mangamura, AniTube!, and MioMio, prompting a public debate that highlighted tensions between the protection of intellectual property on one hand and users’ rights to private communications and the constitutional ban on censorship on the other.2 The move raised serious concerns over whether blocking was constitutionally allowed, and the government later indicated that it would introduce legislation to broaden its blocking authority (see B3). However, a revised and newly enacted anti-piracy law criminalizes illegally downloading manga, magazines, and academic texts, but did not expand the government’s ability to block websites (see C2).3
- 1. "Japan lawmakers to urge government to put curbs on TikTok use: NHK," Reters, July 29, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-tiktok/japan-lawmakers-to-urge….
- 2. Andy Maxwell, “Japan Government Presents Pirate Website Blocking Proposals,” TorrentFreak, September 18, 2018, https://torrentfreak.com/japan-government-presents-pirate-website-block….; Andy Maxwell, “ISP Sued For Breaching User Privacy After Blocking Pirate Sites,” TorrentFreak, April 28, 2018, https://torrentfreak.com/isp-sued-for-breaching-user-privacy-after-bloc….
- 3. “Japan Enacts Copyright Control Law to Ban Pirated Manage Downloads, Kyodo News, June 5, 2020, https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/06/33f524714d35-japan-enacts-co…
|Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||3.003 4.004|
Courts have continued to consider lawsuits from individuals requesting that search engines delink inaccurate or irrelevant material about them from public results, but the Supreme Court has laid down important guidance that set limits on such “right to be forgotten” removals.1 Some private companies occasionally accept the government’s requests to remove content.
In recent years, content removals have focused on hate speech and illegal content, including child sexual abuse images and intimate images shared without the subject’s consent. The Tokyo-based Safer Internet Association (SIA) reported that it was asked to manage over 7,276 cases of nonconsensual sharing of intimate images in 2019 and secured the deletion of the content in 6,771 (93 percent) of those cases.2
Previously, inflammatory, nationalist speech targeting Japanese residents of Korean origin and other minority groups was also subject to removal. In 2017, the Japanese video website Niconico took down two videos posted from an internet protocol (IP) address in Osaka after municipal officials flagged them for violating a local ordinance regulating hate speech.3 In 2016, Makoto Sakurai, a personality known for anti-Korean rhetoric, opened a channel on online television station AbemaTV; a rush of online criticism followed, and the channel was deleted.4
Social media platforms occasionally restrict content at the government’s request. Between July and December 2020, Facebook restricted access to one piece of content in response to an order from Brazil’s Supreme Court related to pages that supported Brazilian President Bolsanaro.5 During the same period, Twitter received 16,648 requests for content removal.6 Twitter complied with 29.4 percent of the requests.7
Service providers protect themselves from civil liability by adhering to voluntary guidelines on takedown requests.8 The 2001 Provider Liability Limitation Act directed ISPs to establish a self-regulatory framework to govern takedown requests involving illegal or objectionable content, defamation, privacy violations, and copyright infringement.9 In 2002, industry associations produced guidelines designed to protect ISPs from legal liability within the jurisdiction of the Japanese courts. 10 Under the guidelines, anyone can report material that infringes directly on their personal rights to the service provider, either to have it removed or to find out who posted it. No third party can do so. The provider notifies the individual who posted the content and fulfills the request with the poster’s permission—or without it if the individual fails to respond. If the poster refuses permission, the service provider is authorized to assess the complaint and act on it if it is deemed legitimate. In this scenario, an ISP could give the complainant information to identify the poster—such as their name or IP address—without that person’s consent, raising privacy concerns.
- 1. “犯罪歴削除、ゆれる司法 (Justice is ambiguous in the deletion of criminal records),” Asahi Newapaper, December 30, 2019, https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASMDX3CDTMDXUTIL006.html.
- 2. “Iho yugai joho taisaku katudo hokoku 2019,” [Illegal and harmful information measures activity report 2019, Safer Internet Association, https://www.safe-line.jp/wp-content/uploads/statistics_2019.pdf
- 3. Nevin Thompson, “In Effort to Stop Anti-Korean Hate Speech, Osaka Mayor Wants to Loosen Internet Privacy Laws,” Global Voices, July 7, 2017, https://globalvoices.org/2017/07/07/in-effort-to-stop-anti-korean-hate-….
- 4. "AbemaTVに桜井誠・在特会前会長の個人チャンネル開設→批判殺到→チャンネル削除,” [Makoto Sakurai, former chairman of the special association, opened a personal channel on AbemaTV → flooded with criticism → deleted channel],” Huffington Post Japan, September 23, 2016, https://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2016/09/22/abema-tv-sakurai-channel_n_121….
- 5. “Japan – Content Restrictions,” Facebook Transparency, 2019, https://transparency.facebook.com/content-restrictions/country/JP.
- 6. “Removal Requests,” Twitter Transparency, 2019, https://transparency.twitter.com/en/reports/removal-requests.html#2019-….
- 7. https://transparency.twitter.com/en/reports/removal-requests.html#2020-…; https://transparency.twitter.com/en/reports/countries/jp.html.
- 8. Business Software Alliance, “Country Report: Japan,” 2012, https://cloudscorecard.bsa.org/2012/assets/pdfs/country_reports/Country….
- 9. “Act on the Limitation of Liability for Damages of Specified Telecommunications Service Providers and the Right to Demand Disclosure of Identification Information of the Senders, (Act No. 137 of 2001),” UNESCO, November 30, 2001, http://www.unesco.org/culture/pdf/anti-piracy/Japan/Jp_%20LimitLiabilit….
- 10. プロバイダ責任制限法ガイドライン (Provider Liability Limitation Act Guidelines), http://www.isplaw.jp/.
|Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process?||3.003 4.004|
While the government is relatively transparent in its censorship decisions, previous blocking and efforts to give authorities more censorship power have raised concerns.
For ISPs to block particular websites, they must monitor their customers' online activity to determine whether they are accessing the sites in question, which could violate the constitutional right to secrecy of communications.1 Following the government’s effort to block manga piracy sites in early 2018, observers expressed concern that the move conflicted with the Telecommunications Business Act and the constitutional ban on censorship.2 Shortly after NTT announced that it would comply with the government’s request, a customer sued the company on the grounds that the blocking violated privacy guarantees.3
In the wake of the blocking attempts, the government indicated that it would introduce new legislation to expand its authority to formally order blocking, which current legislation allows only for sites found to host child sexual abuse images.4 In June 2018, the government convened a panel to review potential legislation targeting websites that host pirated content. The panel allegedly suspended its efforts to draft the legislation in October 2018 after failing to reach consensus on whether the blocking would violate the constitutional right to secrecy of communications.5
ISPs voluntarily filter child sexual abuse images, and many offer parents the option to filter certain other content to protect young internet users.6 Depictions of genitalia are pixelated to obscure them for internet users based on a common—though poorly articulated—interpretation of Article 175 of the penal code, which governs obscenity.7 Otherwise, individuals or police ask ISPs to administratively delete contested or illegal content. A 2014 law addressed the issue of content removal and intimate images shared without consent (see B2 and C2). Under that law, providers must comply with takedown requests within two days.8
The threat of official content restrictions looms periodically during public debates about child safety, though carriers and content producers have successfully resisted intrusive regulation. In 2007, the MIC ordered mobile service providers to install filtering software that would enable parents to control the content seen by their children. A coalition of groups, including the Japan Internet Providers Association and the Movement of Internet Active Users, an organization that advocates for users’ rights, lobbied against the mandate, and mobile users can now select voluntary filters.9
“Right to be forgotten” cases increased around the same time as a landmark 2014 decision on the topic by the Court of Justice of the European Union. In 2017, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled in favor of Google and established criteria for delisting search results that same year.10 In this case, a man asked Google to remove search results documenting a crime he committed over five years earlier.11 The court stated that “removal of information can be demanded only when privacy protection concerns clearly outweigh the public’s interest in the disclosure of information online.”12 The court indicated that points such as the content of the search results, the scope of disclosure, the social status of the persons involved, the “social situation,” and the “necessity of disclosing facts” were critical in deciding whether search engine results should be removed.13 In June 2020, the Tokyo High Court reversed a Tokyo District Court ruling that Twitter remove posts which detailed the plaintiff’s arrest records.14
Courts have also ordered content to be removed in defamation cases, although there were no such rulings during the coverage period. In a 2015 lawsuit, the Tokyo High Court ordered Yahoo Japan to delete 11 search results that linked a man’s name to criminal behavior. The man originally argued that he was defamed by false information.15
The Internet Hotline Center (IHC), operated through the SIA as part of a contract with the National Police Agency (NPA), cooperates with ISPs to solicit reports of illegal or harmful content from the public.16 The IHC’s website offers online forms for reporting objectionable content, such as material that features obscene images, child sexual abuse images, illegal drugs, or prostitution, as well as a referencing system that allows users to look up the status of submitted reports. In 2016, the IHC began providing reports to “Safe-line,” a website maintained by the SIA.17 Once the SIA receives a report, it will either file a police report or make a request for removal to the relevant domestic or overseas provider.18
- 1. "The risk in the fight against piracy websites," Japan Times, March 17, 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/03/17/editorials/risk-fight-p….
- 2. Sakakibara Yasumasu, "海賊版サイトのブロッキング、総務省が政府決定前に通信3社に実施要請 [Blocking of pirated sites, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications requests three telecommunications companies to implement before government decision], Nikkei xTECH, May 18, 2018, http://tech.nikkeibp.co.jp/atcl/nxt/column/18/00001/00496/.
- 3. Andy Maxwell, “ISP sued for breaching user privacy after blocking pirate sites,” TorrentFreak, April 28, 2018, https://torrentfreak.com/isp-sued-for-breaching-user-privacy-after-bloc….
- 4. Shusuke Murai, “Japan calls for ’emergency measure’ blocking access to websites that pirate manga and anime,” The Japan Times, April 13, 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/04/13/national/japan-calls-emerg….
- 5. “法案、通常国会提出を断念 海賊版対策、サイト接続遮断,” [Bill, ordinary Diet session abandoned anti-piracy measures, site connection cutoff], The Asahi Shimbun, January 16, 2019, https://www.asahi.com/articles/DA3S13850279.html.
- 6. “Japan Internet providers block child porn,” The Sunday Morning Herald, April 22, 2011, https://www.smh.com.au/technology/japan-internet-providers-block-child-…; Electronic Network Consortium, “Development and Operation of the Next-Generation Rating/Filtering System on the Internet,” New Media Development Association, April 30, 1999, http://www.nmda.or.jp/enc/rating2nd-en.html.
- 7. Amanda Dobbins, "Obscenity In Japan: Moral Guidance Without Legal Guidance," 2009, http://works.bepress.com/amanda_dobbins/1.
- 8. “リベンジポルノに懲役3年以下の罰則 自民、法案提出へ [Penalties for revenge pornography up to 3 years in prison Liberal Democratic Party to submit bill] Nihon Keizai Shimbun, October 12, 2014, http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXLASFS11H03_S4A011C1PE8000/.
- 9. Izumi Aizu, “Japan,” Access to Online Information and Knowledge 2009, Global Information Society Watch, https://www.giswatch.org/country-report/20/japan.
- 10. Justin McCurry, “Japan recognises 'right to be forgotten' of man convicted of child sex offences,” The Guardian, March 1, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/01/japan-recognises-rig…; Greg Sterling, “Japan Courts Order Removal Of Criminal Activity From Search As Privacy Violation,” Search Engine Land, December 10, 2015, https://searchengineland.com/japan-courts-order-removal-criminal-activi…; Peter Landers, “Google Wins ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Case in Japan,” Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/google-wins-right-to-be-forgotten-case-in-….
- 11. Tomomi Fujikouge, “Japan: Supreme Court Rules on ‘Right to be Forgotten,’” Privacy Matters: DLA Piper's Global Privacy & Data Protection Resource, February 14, 2017, https://blogs.dlapiper.com/privacymatters/japan-supreme-court-rules-on-….
- 12. Tomomi Fujikouge, “Japan: Supreme Court Rules on ‘Right to be Forgotten,” Privacy Matters, February 14, 2017. http://blogs.dlapiper.com/privacymatters/japan-supreme-court-rules-on-r….
- 13. “Limiting the right to be forgotten,” The Japan Times, February 8, 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2017/02/08/editorials/limiting-rig….
- 14. "逮捕歴の投稿削除認めず、プライバシー保護か公表利益か 東京高裁 [Tokyo High Court refuses to allow deletion of arrest record postings, protecting privacy or publicity interest]," Nihon Keizai Shimbun, June 29, 2020, https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXMZO60932800Z20C20A6CR8000/.
- 15. "Yahoo Japan defamed man by displaying false search results: Tokyo High Court," The Japan Times, January 20, 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/20/national/crime-legal/yahoo….
- 16. Internet Hotline Center, “Annual Statistics 2013,” Internet Association Japan, May 1, 2014 https://web.archive.org/web/20151007222100/http://www.internethotline.j….
- 17. Internet Hotline Center, “Annual Statistics 2017,” Internet Association Japan, April 26, 2018, http://www.internethotline.jp/pdf/statistics/2017.pdf.
- 18. “Safe-line Operational Guideline,” Safer Internet Association, 2014, https://www.saferinternet.or.jp/english/en-guideline/.
|Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?||3.003 4.004|
Japanese residents exercise some self-censorship online, often on historical and social issues. The society at large prefers “harmony,” and people avoid criticizing the role of Japan’s emperor, especially when connected with historical events like World War II. Individuals and public figures who break this social convention risk censure and even attacks from right-wing extremists, who notoriously attempted to assassinate the mayor of Nagasaki on these grounds in 1990. Though exceptional, such incidents still exert a chilling effect on Japanese online expression.
In a 2017 report, the United Nation’s (UN’s) special rapporteur on freedom of expression noted that there were “significant worrying signals” regarding self-censorship among journalists on issues such as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.1 There is also a degree of self-censorship concerning human rights problems, in some cases linked to instances of apparent political pressure.2
- 1. Justin McCurry, “Japan accused of eroding press freedom by UN special rapporteur,” The Guardian, June 13, 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/13/japan-accused-of-eroding-….
- 2. Council of the European Union, "EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2016," October 16, 2017, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/21513/st12816en17-ar.pdf.
|Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest?||2.002 4.004|
Progovernment online commentators are prevalent across Japan. For example, the Jiminto (LDP) Net Supporters Club (J-NSC), organized in 2010, had about 19,000 members as of 2017. The group essentially serves as an online public relations effort for the LDP, though its rules make clear that members are responsible for their own social media posts. Such posts have attacked critics of the LDP government and have at times initiated negative campaigns against opposition lawmakers.1 The J-NSC remained active during the coverage period.2
Political bots have also permeated the Japanese internet. Analysis of about half a million sample tweets posted before and after Japan's 2014 general election revealed that most posts were near-duplicates or retweets of those posted by bots, including many that disseminated nationalist or progovernment messages.3 Ahead of the Okinawa gubernatorial election in September 2018, misinformation again spread online.4 To help limit its effectiveness, two local dailies instituted fact-checking processes.
There are some known cases of the government or powerful groups proactively manipulating online news or other content. In one significant instance, government officials and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) withheld data about pollution after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The MIC requested that four industry associations monitor false or unsubstantiated content circulating about the disaster online. Some observers said this was an attempt to control public discourse, though deletions were not widespread. Media scrutiny of reportage involving the 2011 disaster has continued. In 2016, major Japanese news outlets reported that government officials pressured TEPCO not to use the term “meltdown” at a news conference shortly after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident.5 In May 2019, it was revealed that the national government and Fukushima Prefecture paid over ¥24 billion ($217 million) to an advertising agency to manage public relations, including in online outlets, after the disaster.6
- 1. "19,000-strong LDP supporters' group debates how to knock down election rivals," The Mainichi, October 18, 2017, https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171018/p2a/00m/0na/010000c.
- 2. “ネットコメントは自動投稿“bot”が機械的に書き込んでいる [Net comments are mechanically written by the automatic posting “bot”],” Nikkan Gendai, September 25, 2019, https://www.nikkan-gendai.com/articles/view/news/262257; https://news.nicovideo.jp/watch/nw5919937; “安倍首相がオフ懇で語った安住淳・今井雅人氏への辛辣な言葉 [Spicy words to Mr. Jun Azumi and Masato Imai spoken by Prime Minister Abe],” December 4, 2019, https://www.news-postseven.com/archives/20191204_1499412.html?DETAIL.
- 3. Fabian Schäfer, Stefan Evert, Philipp Heinrich, “Japan's 2014 General Election: Political Bots, Right-Wing Internet Activism, and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's Hidden Nationalist Agenda,” Big Data, December 1, 2017, https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/big.2017.0049.
- 4. “Okinawa dailies fact-check, debunk rumors spread during gubernatorial race,” The Mainichi, October 1, 2018, https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20181001/p2a/00m/0na/012000c.
- 5. Kazuaki Nagata, “Tepco chief likely banned use of ‘meltdown’ under government pressure: report,” The Japan Times, June 16, 2016, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/16/national/tepco-chief-likel….
- 6. “原発事故後の復興PRに２４０億円〜電通１社で,” [24 Billion Yen For Reconstruction PR After The Nuclear Accident ~ Dentsu 1 Company], OurPlanet-TV, May 24, 2019, http://www.ourplanet-tv.org/?q=node/2394.
|Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online?||2.002 3.003|
Independent online media and citizen media outlets have faced obstacles in their work, particularly due to the prevalence of the kisha club, or formal press association, system. Kisha clubs include reporters covering institutions such as government ministries or major corporations but are only open to traditional media companies.1 In addition, some online news outlets struggle to sustain themselves financially.
Kisha clubs and an advertising market that favors established players may be preventing digital media from gaining a stronger foothold in the market. Kisha clubs provide essential access to officials in Japan, but they have been accused of denying such access to young journalists and new media outlets; the system may also limit some reporters’ access to certain locations, such as areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima disaster. 2 In 2017, the UN’s special rapporteur for freedom of expression criticized the kisha club system.3 In April 2021, Reporters Without Borders also criticized the kisha club system in their annual World Press Freedom Index.4
- 1. Laurie Anne Freeman, Closing the shop: information cartels and Japan's mass media, Princeton University Press, 2000.
- 2. Reporters Without Borders, “Freelance Journalists Face Discrimination On Fukushima Plant Visit,” January 20, 2016, https://rsf.org/en/news/freelance-journalists-face-discrimination-fukus….
- 3. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on his mission to Japan,” United Nations Human Rights Council, May 29, 2017, http://hrn.or.jp/wpHN/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/A_HRC_35_22_Add.1_AUV….
- 4. World Press Freedom Index, Japan, RSF, https://rsf.org/en/japan.
|Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability?||4.004 4.004|
Japan has a diverse online landscape. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and international blog-hosting services are freely available, as are popular local platforms like Niconico, the video-sharing site, and LINE, a chat application that was launched in Japan in 2011.
Blogs have a significant impact on public opinion, and several independent journalists are becoming influential through personal or commercial websites and social media accounts. However, most online media remain small and community based.1 YouTubers and Instagram personalities have also become increasingly influential in recent years.
- 1. Keiko Tanaka, “Japan’s Citizen Media Meet at Mikawa Medifes 2014,” Global Voices, May 4, 2014, https://globalvoices.org/2014/05/04/japanese_citizen_media_festival/; Arianna Huffington, “Postcard From Japan: Talking Zen, Abenomics, Social Networking and the Constitution With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” Huffington Post, May 9, 2013, http://huff.to/1MhvStk.
|Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues?||6.006 6.006|
Digital activism in Japan has been highly effective at both the local and the national level, and online mobilization tools are freely available.
A number of initiatives sprang up in response to the 2011 Fukushima disaster. These included interactive maps to share public information about disaster relief,1 the use of Google’s Person Finder web application to facilitate rescue and recovery,2 and the online organization of large demonstrations and protests against nuclear energy.
Japanese individuals, particularly women, have used the internet to protest against gender-based discrimination and effect tangible change. In February 2021, protests erupted against then chairman of the Tokyo Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Yoshiro Mori, after he said "board meetings involving many women are lengthy” and that women on the organizing committee “all [knew] their place.” Protestors, particularly women, used the hashtags #WomenWhoRefuseToKnowTheirPlace and #DontBeSilent in a show of solidarity and in defiance of sexism. A Change.org petition calling for Mori's resignation garnered more than 145,000 signatures in one week. A week after the petition launched, it was revealed that Mori would resign as the head of the Olympic Organizing Committee.3
Women in Japan have also mobilized online through the #KuToo movement, which opposes a requirement that women wear high heels in the workplace. In June 2019, the movement’s organizer, actress and freelance writer Ishikawa Yumi, submitted an online petition, which then bore almost 20,000 signatures, to the Health Ministry calling for an end to the requirement.4 In March 2020, Japanese central bank Sumitomo Mitsui abolished the official dress code,5 and Japan Airlines changed its dress code, allowing female flight attendants to wear pants and flat shoes.6
Four civil society organizations, J-ALL, Athlete Ally, All Out, and Human Rights Watch jointly called for online signatures for a petition calling for the government to adopt legislation that protects members of the LGBT+ community from discrimination; the petition, which was submitted to the LDP in March 2021, had over 40,000 signatures from Japanese individuals.7 However, the LDP ultimately decided not to submit a bill on LGBT+ equality due to strong opposition by some conservative lawmakers.8
In early 2019, users rallied behind a Tokyo Shimbun reporter who was targeted by the government. In February of that year, the Cabinet Office reportedly sent a letter demanding that the reporter be “restricted” from asking questions at press events. In response, hashtags such as “Tokyo Shimbun reporter restricted from asking questions,” “toward a country where we can freely ask questions,” and “we have the right to know” trended on Twitter.9 An online petition in support of the journalist also gathered more than 17,000 signatures.10
- 1. Keiko Tanaka, “Japan: OpenStreetMap Aggregates Typhoon Info,” Global Voices, October 18, 2013, https://globalvoices.org/2013/10/18/japan-openstreetmap-aggregates-typh…; Keiko Tanaka, “Mapping Earthquake Reconstruction in Tohoku, Japan,” Global Voices, October 7, 2013, https://globalvoices.org/2013/10/07/mapping-earthquake-reconstruction-i….
- 2. David Goldman, “Google gives '20%' to Japan crisis,” CNN Money, March 17, 2011, http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/17/technology/google_person_finder_japan/.
- 3. "Japanese women speak out to put ‘misogynist’ Mori in his place," The Asahi Shimbun, February 12, 2021, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14181850; "Don't be silent: How a 22-year-old woman helped bring down the Tokyo Olympics chief," Reuters, February 18, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/olympics-2020-women-int/dont-be-silent-… .
- 4. Malcolm Foster, "#KuToo no more! Japanese women take stand against high heels," Reuters, June 4, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-women-high-heels/kutoo-no-more….
- 5. "Recent resignation of Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief over sexist comments parallel the 2019 #KuToo movement in Japan, highlighting the country's continued struggle with gender equality," Business Insider, March 26, 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/resignation-of-tokyo-2020-olympics-chie….
- 6. Beh Lih Yi, "Japan Airlines lets female crew ditch high heels after #KuToo campaign," Reuters, March 26, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/japan-women-rights/japan-airlines-lets-….
- 7. Human Rights Watch, "Japan: Pass Equality Act Before Olympics," March 25, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/25/japan-pass-equality-act-olympics; "LGBT groups want equality law in Japan before Tokyo Olympics," ABC News, March 25, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/lgbt-groups-equality-law-japan-….
- 8. "Japan's LDP shelves LGBT bill for current Diet session due to conservative opposition," The Japan Times, May 29, 2021, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/29/national/politics-diplomac…; "Japanese lawmaker says being LGBT goes against preservation of species," The Japan Times, May 22, 2021, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/22/national/politics-diplomac….
- 9. Nevin Thompson, “Japanese PM staff ‘restrict’ reporter from pressers for ‘spreading misinformation’ about environmental harm,” Global Voices, February 9, 2019, https://globalvoices.org/2019/02/09/japanese-pm-staff-restrict-reporter….
- 10. Reporters Without Borders, “Japan government must not judge the relevance of press questions,” March 5, 2019, https://rsf.org/en/news/japan-government-must-not-judge-relevance-press….
|Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence?||5.005 6.006|
Article 21 of Japan’s constitution prohibits censorship and protects freedom of “speech, press, and all other forms of expression,” as well as the “secrecy of any means of communication.”1 These rights are generally upheld in practice, though some social and legal constraints exist, and several laws have negative implications for free speech.
The Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets came into force in 2014, despite objections from the opposition, civil society, and protesters. The law gives a range of officials the discretion to indefinitely restrict public information pertaining to national security.2 Overseen by government officials rather than an independent body, it offers no protection for whistleblowers who reveal wrongdoing.3
A 2016 law outlined measures that authorities could take to educate the public about hate speech, while also combating such speech when directed against people of overseas origin and their descendants.4 The law’s authors struggled to balance restrictions on racial and ethnic slurs with freedom of expression guarantees in the constitution.5 The law did not actually ban or penalize hate speech, leading some critics to argue that it would be ineffective.6 In 2017, several municipalities asked for a clearer definition of hate speech under the law.7 Since the law’s introduction, many cities have subsequently moved to legislate against hate speech (see C2).
- 1. The Constitution of Japan, November 3, 1946, http://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitu….
- 2. Cabinet Secretariat, “Overview of the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets (SDS),” 2013, http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/topics/2013/headline/houritu_gaiyou_e.pdf.
- 3. “Weak state secrets oversight,” The Japan Times, July 28, 2014, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/07/28/editorials/weak-state-s….
- 4. “A year after enactment of hate speech law, xenophobic rallies down by nearly half,” The Japan Times, May 22, 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/22/national/social-issues/yea….
- 5. “Party bickering shelves plan for law against ‘hate speech’,” The Asahi Shimbun, August 28, 2015.
- 6. “Diet passes Japan's first law to curb hate speech,” The Japan Times, May 24, 2016, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/05/24/national/social-issues/die….
- 7. Casey Baseel, “Japanese government gives examples of what qualifies as “hate speech” in anti-discrimination law,” Sora News 24, February 7, 2017, http://soranews24.com/2017/02/07/japanese-government-gives-examples-of-….
|Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||2.002 4.004|
A number of laws regulate online activity, including by imposing civil and criminal liability.
Under the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, intentional leaks can draw penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, while unintentional leaks can be punished with up to two years in prison. In addition, individuals who knowingly receive secrets from an administrative organ risk up to five years’ imprisonment if the disclosures are found to be intentional, and one year for disclosures made through negligence.1 Implementation guidelines for the law described four main fields of state secrets—defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism—which are further divided into 55 categories.2
Other laws prescribe potentially disproportionate penalties for online activity. A 2012 legal revision targeting copyright violators applies to any internet users who download content they know has been illegally copied, as opposed to just those engaged in piracy for commercial gain.3 While both uploading and downloading pirated material was already illegal under the copyright law, with uploaders subject to 10 years’ imprisonment or fines of up to ¥10 million ($90,692), the version in effect since 2012 added two years in jail or fines of up to ¥2 million ($18,138) for downloading a single pirated file.4
In response to the attempted blocking of manga piracy sites in early 2018 (see B1), the Cultural Council of the Cultural Affairs Agency discussed amending the copyright law to expand the types of content that would be illegal to download or reproduce beyond pirated music and videos, to include material such as social media posts showing animated characters or personal blogs with icons containing copyrighted images.5 In March 2020, the government approved a revision of the Copyright Act, making it illegal to download manga, magazines, and academic publications, in addition to music and videos including in the previous version, without the copyright holder’s permission. Those who violate the revised law face up to two years’ imprisonment, a ¥2 million ($18,138) fine, or both. The bill allows users to download image-based material or certain forms of academic content that is meant for private use.6 The law was passed in June 2020 and took effect in January 2021.7
A 2013 revision of the Public Offices Election Act lifted long-standing restrictions on the use of the internet for election campaigns. There are still limits on paid online advertising and campaign emails, which can only be sent directly by a party or candidate—not a supporter—in a measure designed to prevent fraud.8 While these provisions were contested, and revisions are still planned,9 politicians who violate the existing restrictions face a potential fine of ¥300,000 ($2,720) or one year in prison; imprisonment would strip perpetrators of their right to vote or run for office. Voters found to have improperly solicited support for a candidate via email could be fined ¥500,000 ($4,534) or imprisoned for two years.10
Article 175 of the penal code bans the sale or distribution of “obscene” material, and while the relevant provisions date back more than century, they are considered to apply online.11 The article does not define what constitutes obscenity, leading to concerns that it could be invoked against artistic expression or used to curtail the rights of LGBT+ people.12
A 2011 law criminalized the creation or distribution of computer viruses without a legitimate reason.13 Individuals can be sentenced to up to three years in prison or fines of up to ¥500,000 ($4,534). Many experts have indicated their concern about ambiguous components of the law that could be abused. During the previous reporting period, a number of users were charged with virus-related offenses (see C3).
Other laws regulate online activity but are not known to have resulted in abuse or disproportionate penalties. Heightened awareness of nonconsensual sharing of intimate images and online harassment culminated in the adoption of a law criminalizing such activity in 2014. Offenders can face prison sentences of up to three years or fines as large as ¥500,000 ($4,534), and third-party distribution can draw up to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of ¥300,000 ($2,720).14 Japan’s antistalking law, originally enacted in 2000, was revised in 2013 to address email harassment, and further revised in 2016 to penalize repeated blog posts or messages on social networking services.15
Some municipal governments have also introduced local ordinances on hate speech, including the government of Osaka in 2016. Osaka’s ordinance authorized the public identification of groups that disseminate hate speech, defined as “communication which defames and aims to exclude a particular group based on race or ethnicity,” including through “online transmission,” according to news reports.16 In December 2019, Kawasaki City created the first nondiscrimination ordinance that includes criminal penalties for hate speech in public spaces. The city has considered measures to deal with online hate speech, but did not implement a specific ordinance to address this activity. However, the ordinance did stipulate that the city would take measures to prevent the spread of hate on the internet.17 Sagamihara City is also planning to enact a criminal ordinance that would target hate speech against members of specific ethnic or racial groups in 2021.18 No ordinance was proposed or passed at the end of the coverage period.
- 1. “Overview of the Act on SDS Protection: 5. Penalty and Others,” Preparatory Office for Enforcement of the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/topics/2013/headline/houritu_gaiyou_e.pdf#pa….
- 2. Catherine A. Traywick, “In Japan’s State Secrets Law, Shades of Red, White and Blue,” Foreign Policy, December 5, 2013, https://foreignpolicy.com/2013/12/05/in-japans-state-secrets-law-shades….
- 3. Daniel Feit, “Japan Passes Jail-for-Downloaders Anti-Piracy Law,” Wired, June 21, 2012, http://wrd.cm/1hsGKaV.
- 4. Maira Sutton, “Japan's Copyright Problems: National Policies, ACTA, and TPP in the Horizon,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, August 21, 2012, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/08/copyright-japan.
- 5. “Kaizoku-ban manga download iho ni? [Will downloading pirated manga be illegal?],” The Asahi Shimbun, October 30, 2018
- 6. “Iho download, taisho wo kakudai – manga ya zassi, rombun mo keijibatsu [Illegal downloads, expanded coverage Manga, magazines and dissertations are also criminal penalties],” Kyodo News, March 10, 2020, https://www.47news.jp/news/4598713.html; Timothy Geigner, “Japan Approves New Law To Make Manga Piracy A Criminal Offense,” Techdirt, March 11, 2020, https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200311/10263944082/japan-approves-n….
- 7. “Japan enacts copyright control law to ban pirated manga downloads,” Kyodo News, June 5, 2020, https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/06/33f524714d35-japan-enacts-co….
- 8. “Editorial: Internet election campaigns can change Japan's politics,” The Asahi Shimbun, April 20, 2013.
- 9. Reiji Yoshida, “Parties come together to lift ban on Net election campaigning,” The Japan Times, February 14, 2013, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/02/14/national/politics-diplomac….
- 10. Ayako Mie, “Election campaigning takes to Net,” The Japan Times, April 11, 2013, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/11/national/politics-diplomac…; “Japanese parliament permit use of Internet campaigning during elections,” TJC Global, April 20, 2013, https://tjcglobal.wordpress.com/tag/public-offices-election-law/.
- 11. James R. Alexander, “Obscenity, Pornography, and the Law in Japan: Reconsidering Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses,” Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal 4, no., 2003, 148-168, http://faculty.upj.pitt.edu/jalexander/Research%20archive/Japanese%20ob…; Penal Code [Law No. 45 of 24 April 1907 as amended through Law No. 52 of 2 June 1987], “Unofficial English Translation,” June 22, 2005, https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/natlex4.detail?p_lang=&p_isn=31753.
- 12. Keiko Tanaka, “Japan's Porn Law is Strangling Artists,” Global Voices, February 18, 2013, https://globalvoices.org/2013/02/18/japans-porn-law-is-strangling-artis….
- 13. Johoshori no kodoka to ni taisho suru tame no keiho to no ichibu wo kaisei suru houritu an, [legislation cyber relationship], Ministry of Justice, April 1, 2011; “Japan to fine or jail computer virus creators,” Phys, June 17, 2011, https://phys.org/news/2011-06-japan-fine-virus-creators.html.
- 14. “Release of explicit images without consent to be criminalized,” The Japan Times, November 18, 2014, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/11/18/national/crime-legal/relea….
- 15. “Revised anti-stalking law centered on social media harassment takes effect,” The Japan Times, January 3, 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/03/national/crime-legal/revis….
- 16. Eric Johnston, “Osaka assembly passes nation's first ordinance against hate speech,” The Japan Times, January 15, 2016, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/15/national/osaka-set-pass-ja….
- 17. “Kawasaki enacts Japan's first bill punishing hate speech,” The Asahi Shimbun, December 13, 2019; “Kawasaki enacts Japan's first bill punishing hate speech,” The Japan Times, December 12, 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/12/12/national/crime-legal/kawas…; “Japan city enacts 1st ordinance criminally punishing hate speech,” Kyodo News, December 12, 2019, https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/12/bc1a826d32be-kawasaki-enacts…
- 18. “ヘイトに罰則条例、相模原市も制定へ ２１年度にも [Penal regulations for hate, Sagamihara City to be enacted in 2009],” The Asahi Shimbun, January 21, 2020, https://www.asahi.com/articles/DA3S14334461.html.
|Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||5.005 6.006|
No citizens faced politically motivated arrest or prosecution for their online activity during the coverage period.
There are periodic reports of arrests under the copyright law, which carries possible prison terms for both uploading and downloading content without the permission of the copyright owner (see C2). In June 2021, after the coverage period, the Fukuoka District Court sentenced Romi Hoshino to three years in prison and a fine of ¥10 million ($90,692) for allegedly operating the manga piracy website, Mangamura (see B1). The judge also ordered the confiscation of approximately ¥62 million ($562,290) that Hoshino had hidden in overseas bank accounts. Three men and three women, who acted as instructors and executors alongside Hoshino, were also convicted of violating the Copyright Act.1 In 2017, two people were sentenced to 18 months in prison, a three-year suspension, and a ¥500,000 ($4,534) fine for copyright-related offenses.2
Journalists who report on sensitive topics also face government and authorities’ pressure in the form of defamation lawsuits. In June 2020, the founder of news site Independent Web Journal, Yasumi Iwakami, had his appeal dismissed regarding a fine he was required to pay for allegedly defaming former Osaka prefectural governor, Toru Hashimoto. Iwakami was sentenced to pay ¥330,000 ($2,992) in September 2019 after he retweeted a post from 2017 that suggested Hashimoto was responsible for the suicide of one of his subordinates.3
Several users have been arrested and charged under a 2011 law criminalizing the creation and use of computer viruses without a legitimate reason (see C2). In June 2018, police announced that they arrested 16 website operators for allegedly using a service called Coinhive to mine cryptocurrencies via visitors’ computers without their consent.4 Some of those arrested were fined ¥100,000 ($906).5 In March 2019, the Yokohama District Court acquitted one defendant, ruling that the cryptocurrency mining program did not constitute a virus.6 However, in February 2020, he was convicted and received a ¥100,000 ($906) fine, after the Tokyo High Court overturned the acquittal.7 The individual’s defense team plans to file an appeal.8
- 1. "Ex-illegal manga site operator slapped with three-year prison sentence," The Japan Times, June 2, 2021.
- 2. "著作権法違反 ネタバレサイト運営者被告に有罪 熊本地裁 [Kumamoto District Court guilty of spoiler site operator defendant]," The Mainichi, December 26, 2017, https://mainichi.jp/articles/20171226/k00/00e/040/228000c.
- 3. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 2020, "Japanese journalist victim of judicial harassment for 'defamatory' retweet," https://rsf.org/en/news/japanese-journalist-victim-judicial-harassment-….
- 4. The police had been monitoring the Coinhive program since it was released in September 2017 to determine where it has been installed.
- 5. "Police make first arrests over computer exploitation for cryptocurrency 'mining'," The Mainichi, June 15, 2018, https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180615/p2a/00m/0na/008000c.
- 6. Mark Emem, “Japanese Court Acquits Coinhive Cryptojacker in Shocking Verdict,” CCN, March 27, 2019, https://www.ccn.com/japanese-court-acquits-coinhive-cryptojacker-shocki…; Ana Alexandre, “Japanese Court Acquits Man Accused of Cryptojacking,” Cointelegraph, March 28, 2019, https://cointelegraph.com/news/japanese-court-acquits-man-accused-of-cr….
- 7. “Tanin PC mudan sadou, gyakuten yuzai – husei na program – Tokyo kosai hanketsu [Unauthorized operation of another PC, guilty of reversal -- Illegal program -- Judgment of Tokyo High Court],” The Asahi Shimbun, February 8, 2020; "Tokyo court convicts man of using website to install cryptomining programs on computers," The Japan Times, Feb 7, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/07/national/crime-legal/tokyo….
- 8. Hirano Takashi, 2020, "【寄稿】コインハイブ事件 意見書ご協力のお願い [Coin Hive Case Opinion Request for Cooperation]," Japan Hackers Association, April 6, 2020, https://www.hacker.or.jp/coinhiveopinion/.
|Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption?||3.003 4.004|
Individuals can generally use the internet anonymously in Japan. However, some digital activities require separate registration. Major mobile service providers require customers to present identification documents in order to subscribe. Internet café users are required to produce formal identification documents such as a driver’s license, and to register their name and address. Police can request these details, along with usage logs, if they detect illegal online activity.
The Act on Prevention of Improper Use of Mobile Phones (2005) requires mobile voice communication carriers to verify the identity of subscribers when a contract was terminated or transferred, in order to prevent a situation in which cell phone subscribers cannot be identified. In June 2008, the law was amended to prohibit the transfer of SIM cards without permission and to require rental companies to verify the identity of customers.1
There are no explicit restrictions on encryption. Under the criminal procedure code, however, investigators can order a person to decrypt an encrypted electronic record.2
Increased concerns over harassment, intimidation, and slander during the previous coverage period led members of the ruling LDP to meet with experts to discuss the possibility of deanonymizing the accounts of those who engage in such behavior online. In May 2020, MIC’s minister Takaichi Sanae, voiced her interest in amending the Provider Liability Limitation Law.3 In April 2021, a bill was unanimously passed and enacted in the Diet which amends the Provider Liability Limitation Act to make it easier to identify users who allegedly slander people on the internet. The law is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2022. Under the amended law, an individual can request the court to disclose information about a sender who posted defamatory content. The court has up to six months to decide whether to order a content provider to disclose the sender’s information, and can also order access providers to retain sender’s information during the proceedings. There are concerns that disclosure requests will be misused as a means to suppress the transmission of information.4
- 1. Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, "Q＆A: レンタル携帯電話事業者向け [FAQ: For Rental Mobile Phone Providers]," https://www.soumu.go.jp/main_sosiki/joho_tsusin/d_syohi/050526_1.files/….
- 2. “World map of encryption laws and policies,” Global Partners Digital, https://www.gp-digital.org/world-map-of-encryption/.
- 3. Keishi Nishimura and Tomoya Fujita, "ネット中傷者特定しやすく、政府与党が検討 乱用懸念も [It is easy to identify the online humazah, and the government and the ruling party are considering it]," The Asahi Shimbun, May 26, 2020, https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASN5V62SSN5VULFA025.html.
- 4. "ネット中傷者、特定しやすく 新裁判手続き、改正案を閣議決定 [Cabinet approves amendments to new court procedures to make it easier to identify cyber defamers]," The Asahi Shimbun, February 27, 2021, https://digital.asahi.com/articles/DA3S14814629.html; "ネット中傷、投稿者特定を迅速に 開示手続き改正法成立 [Law to revise disclosure procedures passed to speed up identification of Internet defamation posters]," The Asahi Shimbun, April 21, 2021, https://digital.asahi.com/articles/ASP4P4WQHP4NULFA02N.html.
|Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy?||2.002 6.006|
Japan’s Supreme Court protects privacy in part through its interpretation of Article 13 of the constitution, which provides for the right to life and liberty.1 The constitutional right to secrecy of communications is also protected under telecommunications laws.2 However, recent developments in Japan have raised serious concerns about increased surveillance, including reports of opaque surveillance operations and the approval of a conspiracy law that may allow police to seek wiretap warrants in a wider range of circumstances.
In November 2018, the amended Telecommunications Business Act and the Act on the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) came into effect.3 The changes allowed the NICT and the MIC to carry out the NOTICE program, authorizing them to attempt to access domestic internet-enabled devices for up to five years in an effort to strengthen cybersecurity (see C8).4 With seemingly no judicial oversight and potential access to millions of users’ personal devices, NOTICE has raised serious privacy concerns. In February 2019, civil society groups and ordinary users issued a joint statement asking the MIC to suspend the program,5 although the program continued. In May 2021, the NICT released a summary of NOTICE-related activities, disclosing that it attempted to access 112 million IP addresses, and that the NOTICE alert detected 1,817 targets and notified service providers.6
The conspiracy law passed in 2017 raised the possibility of more government surveillance. It criminalized “planning” to commit a series of newly designated “serious crimes” that could supposedly fund terrorism, including copyright violations, potentially making more suspects subject to wiretaps. The UN’s special rapporteur for privacy noted ahead of the law’s passage that “in order to establish the existence and the extent of such ‘a planning’ and ‘preparatory actions,’ it is logical to assume that those charged would have had to be subjected to a considerable level of surveillance beforehand.”7
Under a wiretap law enacted in 2000, law enforcement agents may seek a court order to conduct electronic surveillance in criminal investigations involving drugs, firearms, human trafficking, or organized murders, in an exception to articles of other laws that explicitly forbid wiretapping.8 In 2016, the law was expanded to include fraud, theft, and child sexual abuse images.9 The law obliges agents to notify targets of wiretaps after investigations are concluded and inform the Diet about the number they implement annually. Critics say the law does not prevent the systematic storage of intercepted communications or protect innocent parties.10 On February 19, 2021, the Justice Ministry announced that 20,120 mobile phone calls were tapped in 20 cases during 2020, leading to 152 arrests. The number of interceptions has more than doubled from the previous year, partly due to the introduction of new procedures that allow the police to wiretap individuals without witnesses from telecommunication companies.11
The wiretap law was controversial when it passed, in part due to the authorities’ periodic abuse of surveillance powers.12 Security agents and the military were accused of conducting illegal surveillance in cases involving national security in 2003 and 2004.13 In June 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to the police practice of monitoring places of worship and other venues used by members of the Muslim community. The original case was brought after a 2010 leak of police documents revealed that Muslims were subject to widespread monitoring for possible terrorist activity. It was not clear how much of the monitoring involved digital as opposed to physical surveillance.14
Some Japanese security agencies may have equipment enabling the blanket collection and monitoring of communications data, though it is unclear how such technology has been used, what laws govern its employment, and what, if any, safeguards there are. The 2014 state secrets law, which covers national security issues, may make surveillance abuses harder to document (see C1 and C2).
In May 2018, public broadcaster NHK and the Intercept reported on the activities of the Directorate for Signals Intelligence (DFS), a spy agency that monitors and analyzes electronic communications.15 The reporting claimed that the government deployed a clandestine online surveillance program, dubbed MALLARD, to observe communications passing between satellites.16 The information collected is reportedly stored for around two months, during which it is analyzed to determine if it is of interest to the DFS. It is unclear whether and to what extent domestic users have been caught up in the program. An earlier Intercept report from 2017 analyzed leaked documents that suggested Japanese police and intelligence agencies were involved in in regional surveillance operations managed by the US National Security Agency (NSA). The report notes that the NSA provided XKEYSCORE, a surveillance tool that can search through a range of content and metadata online, to the DFS.17
- 1. Privacy International, “Chapter: I. Legal Framework,” 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20130308093014/https://www.privacyinternati….
- 2. “Telecommunications Business Act, Act No. 86 of December 25, 1984,” Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Latest revision: Act No. 136 of December 28, 2007, https://www.soumu.go.jp/main_sosiki/joho_tsusin/eng/Resources/laws/pdf/….
- 3. “About Notice,” NOTICE, 2020, https://notice.go.jp/en/.
- 4. Daisuke Ikuta, “Ministry plans massive IoT survey to bolster cyber security,” The Asahi Shimbun, February 2, 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20190228112724/http://www.asahi.com/ajw/art….
- 5. “「プライバシーの侵害だ」IoT調査の中止求めて市民ら会見 [Privacy Infringement" Citizens' Interview Calling For Cancellation Of IoT Investigation]", Our Planet, February 18, 2019, http://www.ourplanet-tv.org/?q=node/2367.
- 6. NOTICE, 2021, "実施状況 [Implementation Status]," https://notice.go.jp/status.
- 7. “Mandate of the Special Repporteur on the right to privacy,” OHCHR, May 18, 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Privacy/OL_JPN.pdf.
- 8. Privacy International, “Chapter II: Surveillance,” in Report: Japan, 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20121203192934/https://www.privacyinternati….
- 9. “Editorial: Expanding scope of wiretapping,” The Japan Times, October 7, 2016, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/10/07/editorials/expanding-sc….
- 10. “Chapter II: Surveillance,” Privacy International, 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20121203192934/https://www.privacyinternati….
- 11. "昨年の通話傍受、最多20事件で2万回超 152人逮捕 [Last year's wiretappings exceeded 20,000 times in 20 cases, 152 arrests]," The Asahi Shimbun, February 19, 2021, https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASP2M35VLP2LUTIL06Y.html.
- 12. In 1997, a court ordered the government to pay a senior member of the Japanese Communist Party 4 million yen [US$35,500] in damages for illegally wiretapping his residence in the 1980s. “Tokyo, Kanagawa Bow to Wiretap Ruling,” The Japan Times, July 10, 1997, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/1997/07/10/national/tokyo-kanagawa-bo….
- 13. “Japan's Military Watched Citizens: Communist Party,” bdnews24, June 6, 2007, http://bdnews24.com/world/2007/06/06/japan-s-military-watched-citizens-….
- 14. Ian Monroe, “Top court green-lights surveillance of Japan's Muslims,” Al Jazeera, June 29, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/top-court-green-lights-surveillan….
- 15. Ryan Gallagher, “The Untold Story of Japan’s Secret Spy Agency,” The Intercept, May 19, 2018, https://theintercept.com/2018/05/19/japan-dfs-surveillance-agency/.
- 16. “DFS briefing Feb 2013,” The Intercept, May 19, 2018, https://theintercept.com/document/2018/05/19/dfs-briefing-feb-2013/.
- 17. “DFS briefing Feb 2013,” The Intercept, May 19, 2018, https://theintercept.com/document/2018/05/19/dfs-briefing-feb-2013/; “Japan Provided With XKEYSCORE,” The Intercept, April 24, 2017, https://theintercept.com/document/2017/04/24/japan-provided-with-xkeysc….
|Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy?||3.003 6.006|
Service providers and other technology companies can be required to aid the government in monitoring the communications of their users. Some companies cooperate with investigative authorities by turning over their users' data without receiving a court order.
In June 2020, Japan passed amendments to the Act on the Protection of Personal Information. The amendments expanded the scope of personal data and eliminated restrictions on the law’s extraterritorial applications. Under the amended law, overseas companies are also obligated to notify the government of data breaches that involve sensitive information, cause financial injury, or affect more than 1,000 users. The amendments are set to come into effect in 2022.1
In May 2021, the government launched an investigation into the data management polices of LINE, a messaging application with servers based in Japan, after a report revealed that Chinese engineers had accessed LINE’s data without the company’s knowledge. 2
A 2003 law protects personal information collected electronically by private– and public-sector organizations when it consists of more than 5,000 records.3 Law enforcement requests for this data should be supported by a warrant.4 Amendments passed by the Diet in 2015 defined “personal information” in more specific terms as “biometric information” and “numeric data that is capable of identifying a specific individual.”5 Anonymization provisions allow for personal data to be transferred to a third party without the consent of the subject if specific requirements are met.6 Criminal sanctions for misusing personal data and restrictions on the transfer of personal data to overseas jurisdictions that lack equivalent safeguards were also strengthened.7 Finally, the amendments established the Personal Information Protection Commission (PIPC) as an “independent authority under the Cabinet Office,” replacing the Consumer Affairs Agency.8
Changes to the legal frameworks surrounding privacy and surveillance are often considered in the ongoing digitization of citizens’ personal records. The 2013 My Number law introduced a unique 12-digit number for all long-term residents used to access unified social welfare services and taxation purposes. In May 2021, the Diet enacted the Digital Reform Bill, which streamlines how officials in Japan handle and share data and revises how personal data is protected under the law. Specifically, the government will consolidate personal information among local government and central government servers, and will link personal data to individuals’ unique 12-digit numbers.9
During the drafting process, it became clear that the government's priority was to effectively manage internet users’ information rather than to protect personal data.10 Experts are concerned that the new policies to streamline data handling between the local and central governments will dilute personal information protections previously established by local governments and may enable increased government surveillance.11 During Diet sessions, when questions were raised as to whether the Ministry of Defense and the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office were intercepting phone calls and e-mails, the government declined to answer.12
Under voluntary guidelines drafted by four ISPs in 2005, service providers automatically inform police of internet users identified on websites that endorse suicide, and comply with law enforcement requests for information related to acts of self-harm.13 A law enacted in 2003 and revised in 2008 prohibits electronic communications encouraging sexual activity with minors.14 Under the law, all online dating services must register with the police, verify their customers’ ages with a driver’s license or credit card, and delete or block content that appears to involve someone under 18; most services voluntarily monitor messages in real time to ensure compliance.
Some companies report on data requests they receive from government agencies. LINE reported that 80 percent of the global law enforcement requests for user data that it received between July and December 2020 came from Japanese entities. The company said it complies with requests that are based on a warrant, an investigation-related inquiry, or an emergency order under the Japanese penal code and criminal procedure code.15 Google reported 145 requests for user data between January and June 2020 and produced some data in 83 percent of cases.16 Facebook reported 66 government requests involving 82 accounts between July and December 2020. The platform provided data in 42 percent of cases.17
- 1. Future of Privacy Forum, “A New Era for Japanese Data Protection: 2020 Amendments to the APPI,” April 13, 2021. https://fpf.org/blog/a-new-era-for-japanese-data-protection-2020-amendm…
- 2. Future of Privacy Forum, “A New Era for Japanese Data Protection: 2020 Amendments to the APPI,” April 13, 2021. https://fpf.org/blog/a-new-era-for-japanese-data-protection-2020-amendm…
- 3. “Country Report: Japan,” Business Software Alliance, 2012, https://cloudscorecard.bsa.org/2012/assets/pdfs/country_reports/Country….
- 4. “Chapter: III. Privacy Issues,” Privacy International, accessed January 13, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20130308163043/https://www.privacyinternati….
- 5. Simmons & Simmons elexica, “New amendments to data protection law in Japan,” September 11, 2015, https://web.archive.org/web/20151016124827/http://www.elexica.com/en/le….
- 6. Simmons & Simmons elexica, “New amendments to data protection law in Japan,” September 11, 2015, https://web.archive.org/web/20151016124827/http://www.elexica.com/en/le….
- 7. Daisuke Tatsuno and Kensaku Takase, “Introduction of significant amendments to Japan’s Privacy Law,” Global Compliance News, September 4, 2015, https://globalcompliancenews.com/introduction-of-significant-amendments….
- 8. Simmons & Simmons elexica, “New amendments to data protection law in Japan,” September 11, 2015. https://web.archive.org/web/20151016124827/http://www.elexica.com/en/le….
- 9. "個人情報の国家集中管理 監視社会よぶデジタル法案, [National centralized control of personal information: Digital bill to create a surveillance society]" The Mainichi Shimbun, April 12, 2021. The article is on the website of the expert, http://presslaw.xsrv.jp/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/%E6%AF%8E%E6%97%A5%E….
- 10. "Diet enacts data bills despite concerns raised over privacy," Asahi Shimbun, May 12, 2021, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14346985.
- 11. "個人情報の国家集中管理 監視社会よぶデジタル法案, [National centralized control of personal information: Digital bill to create a surveillance society]" The Mainichi Shimbun, April 12, 2021. The article is on the website of the expert, http://presslaw.xsrv.jp/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/%E6%AF%8E%E6%97%A5%E….
- 12. "拙速、デジタル改革法 「立法府の軽視」個人情報どうなる [The Digital Reform Act was passed poorly and without legislative oversight. What happens to personal data?]," Asahi Shimbun, May 17, 2021, https://digital.asahi.com/articles/DA3S14905749.html.
- 13. Carolina A. Klein, “Live Deaths Online: Internet Suicide and Lethality,” American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 40, no. 4 (December 2012): 530-536, http://www.jaapl.org/content/40/4/530.full.
- 14. Akira Saka, “Regulation for Online Dating Sites in Japan,” Keio University, 2008, https://sites.google.com/a/ssslab.org/saka/lab/regulationforonlinedatin….
- 15. “LINE Transparency Report,” LINE, 2021, https://linecorp.com/en/security/transparency/20208h2.
- 16. "Google Transparency Report,” Google, 2021, https://transparencyreport.google.com/user-data/overview.
- 17. “Japan – Government Requests Report,” Facebook Transparency, 2021, https://transparency.facebook.com/government-data-requests/country/JP.
|Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities?||4.004 5.005|
Users rarely face physical and offline harassment in relation to their online activities. However, several cases of online harassment were documented during the coverage period.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in online harassment directed at medical personnel and individuals who allegedly contracted COVID-19. In a survey by the Japan Medical Association, there were 700 incidents between October and December 2020 where medical staff treating COVID-19 patients were subject to online harassment.1 COVID-19 patients and individuals who allegedly tested positive for the virus also faced harassment on social media.2
Individuals who are half-black and half-Japanese, continue to face racism online. In May 2021, Aren Hachimura, the younger brother of NBA basketball player Rui Hachimura, received racist messages over SNS. The brothers’ father is from West Africa.
Individuals who have criticized the ruling LDP and the government have also faced targeted harassment. In May 2020, many celebrities voiced their opposition to a draft bill that would allow the government to delay the retirement of senior prosecutors, arguing that the bill undermined the constitutional separation of powers.3 Musician Takemura Kiriko authored a Twitter post in favor of the campaign that month, but deleted it after some social media users left negative comments. Some tabloid newspapers and online news outlets have reportedly harassed journalists who disagreed with the government more broadly.4
Women also continue to face targeted online harassment. Hana Kimura was subject to harassment, primarily because of her gender, after she appeared on the reality television show "Terrace House.” In May 2020, Kimura committed suicide. Following her death, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications announced her intention to amend the Provider Liability Limitation Law (see C4).5 During the previous coverage period, Ishikawa Yumi, the woman who launched the #KuToo campaign, reported facing online harassment over her work, frequently from men (see B8).6
Physical violence in relation to online activities is rare. However, in June 2018, Okamoto Kenichiro, known as Hagex online, was murdered in Fukuoka after presenting a seminar on best practices to deal with online disagreements and abuse, among other topics.7 The man who later confessed to the stabbing allegedly harassed Okamoto online; in November 2019, he received an 18-year prison sentence.8
- 1. "コロナ対応の医療従事者などに嫌がらせや差別 3か月で約700件 [Harassment and discrimination against health care workers and others responding to coronas: About 700 cases in 3 months]," NHK, February, 7, 2021, https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20210207/k10012853741000.html.
- 2. "Coronavirus in Japan: Arson, ostracism, online attacks against medics, victims," Deutsche Welle, May, 14, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-in-japan-arson-ostracism-online-attac….
- 3. “Shut up and sing? Celebrities’ political tweets bring backlash,” The Asahi Shimbun, May 12, 2020, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13367399.
- 4. Rei Shiba, 2020, "ネットの誹謗中傷、メディアが批判する資格はあるか？―きゃりーさんら芸能人の発言封じも [Is the media eligible to criticize slander on the net? -Kyary-san and other entertainers' remarks are also blocked?]," May 27, 2020, https://news.yahoo.co.jp/byline/shivarei/20200527-00180498/.
- 5. "Japan mulls law to regulate cyberbullying after death of Netflix star Hana Kimura," The Washington Post, May 26, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/japan-mulls-law-to-re…; "ネット中傷者特定しやすく、政府与党が検討 乱用懸念も [Ruling party considers making it easier to identify internet slanderers, fears of abuse]," The Asahi Shimbun, May 26, 2020, https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASN5V62SSN5VULFA025.html.
- 6. Malcolm Foster, "#KuToo no more! Japanese women take stand against high heels," Reuters, June 4, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-women-high-heels/kutoo-no-more….
- 7. Satoshi Sugiyama, “Japanese Blogger Is Killed After Giving Lecture on Online Trolls,” New York Times, June 26, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/world/asia/japan-okamoto-blogger-kil…; Justin McCurry, “Japanese blogger stabbed to death after internet abuse seminar,” The Guardian, June 26, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/26/japanese-blogger-kenichir….
- 8. Eishi Kado, “Fukuoka man who slayed noted blogger Hagex given 18” The Asahi Shimbun, November 20, 2019, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201911200063.html.
|Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack?||2.002 3.003|
While cyberattacks against journalists and activists are rare, private companies have been targeted in previous coverage periods.
Cybersecurity efforts ramped up ahead of the summer Olympics, which were originally planned for 2020, particularly around internet of things (IoT) devices.1
In October 2020, the UK National Cyber Security Centre revealed that Russian military intelligence was planning a cyberattack on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2021 in an attempt to disrupt the event.2 In April 2021, CrowdStrike, a US cybersecurity company, stated that the risk of cyberattacks at the event was low because of the restrictions on audience.3
In February 2019, the NICT, under the MIC, launched the NOTICE program,4 which attempts to crack the passwords of about 200 million internet-connected devices in homes and offices, starting with webcams, routers, and sensors, in order to better secure vulnerable devices with stronger passwords. If a device is successfully hacked, its owner will be advised to strengthen security measures, for instance by making their passwords more complex. Despite promises that the program will not target phones and personal computers, critics have expressed privacy concerns (see C5).
Cyberattacks occasionally target civil society and private companies, although none were reported during the coverage period. In one significant cyberattack against civil society organizations, at least 33 antinuclear citizens’ groups were targeted in 2013.5 In April 2019, the Macnica Networks Corporation, an information-technology trading firm, stated that groups reportedly connected to China were suspected of targeting private companies; it cited alleged efforts by Chinese cyberespionage group APT10 to hack Japanese defense companies in 2018.6
In January 2020, the Mitsubishi Electric Corporation disclosed that that it experienced massive cyberattacks in June 2019. Chinese groups BlackTech and Tick were reportedly behind the breaches.7 In February 2020, the Defense Ministry reported that some “sensitive” information may have been leaked as the result of the Mitsubishi breach.8 That same month, the ministry disclosed that Kobe Steel, NEC, and aerial surveying company Pasco were also targeted by cyberattacks between 2016 and 2018.9
Public attention to cybersecurity threats has increased since mid-2015, when 1.25 million citizens were affected by the release of personal information obtained by hackers who illegally accessed Japan’s pension system using an email virus.10
In 2020, as Japanese companies shifted to telework during the pandemic, the number of ransomware attacks surged to unprecedented levels, shutting down operations and paralyzing computer and email systems. According to a survey conducted by international security firm CrowdStrike, a little more than half of the 200 largest Japanese companies, including Honda, Canon, Citizen Watch and Asunaro Aoki Construction, have been hit by ransomware cyberattacks, and 33 companies have paid an average of ¥123 million ($1.12 million) to criminal networks to prevent their password-protected data from leaks. In November 2020, Capcom, a prominent video game company, reported that it paid a ¥1.1 billion ($9.9 million) ransom in exchange for the recovery of stolen materials.11 The National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGHM) announced that it was the target of about 5.3 million ransomware attacks in 2020, compared to 1.2 million incidents in 2019, though they reported that sensitive research and personal information was not compromised during these attacks.12
- 1. James Griffiths, “'Internet of things' or 'vulnerability of everything'? Japan will hack its own citizens to find out,” CNN, February 1, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/asia/japan-hacking-cybersecurity-iot-int….
- 2. "Russia planned cyber-attack on Tokyo Olympics, says UK," The Guardian, October 20, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/19/russia-planned-cyber-atta….
- 3. "「東京オリパラ狙うサイバー攻撃のリスクは増えない」、米クラウドストライクが指摘 [No increase in risk of cyberattacks targeting Tokyo Olympics, says U.S. CrowdStrike]," Nikkei X Tech, April 16, 2021, https://xtech.nikkei.com/atcl/nxt/news/18/10137/.
- 4. Daisuke Ikuta, "Ministry plans massive IoT survey to bolster cyber security," The Asahi Shimbun, February 2, 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20190228112724/http://www.asahi.com/ajw/art…; “The ‘NOTICE’ Project to Survey IoT Devices and to Alert Users,” Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, JAPAN, February 1, 2019, http://www.soumu.go.jp/main_sosiki/joho_tsusin/eng/Releases/Telecommuni….
- 5. "Anti-nuclear citizens groups targeted in massive cyber-attack," The Asahi Shimbun, November 11, 2013.
- 6. “標的型攻撃の実態と 対策アプローチ [The reality of targeted attacks and countermeasure approach],” Macnica, April 18, 2019, https://www.macnica.net/file/mpressioncss_ta_report_2019.pdf; Fortune, “Chinese Hackers Targeted Japanese Defense Firms for North Korean Secrets, Experts Say,” April 23, 2018, https://fortune.com/2018/04/23/china-japan-north-korea-cyberspies-secre…; Ayako Matsuda and Irshad Muhammad, “APT10 Targeting Japanese Corporations Using Updated TTPs,” Fireeye, September 13, 2018, https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2018/09/apt10-targeting-ja….
- 7. Yoshitaka Ito and Ryoko Takahashi, “Defense Ministry now reports possible leak of sensitive data,” The Asahi Shimbun, February 11, 2020, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13118792; “三菱電機にサイバー攻撃 中国系か、防衛情報流出恐れ [Cyber attack on Mitsubishi Electric Chinese or defense information leak fear],” Nikkei, January 20, 2020, https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXMZO54586740Q0A120C2MM0000/.
- 8. “Defense info may have leaked from cyberattacks on Mitsubishi Electric,” The Japan Times, February 11, 2020, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/11/national/defense-info-cybe….
- 9. “Defense Ministry lists Kobe Steel, Pasco as victims of cyberattacks,” The Asahi Shimbun, February 7, 2020; “Kobe Steel, Pasco hit in latest cyberattack cases: Defense Ministry,” Kyodo News, February 7, 2020, https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/02/b7911a9e6225-kobe-steel-pasc….
- 10. William Mallard and Linda Sieg, “Japan pension system hacked, 1.25 million cases of personal data leaked,” eds. Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez, Reuters, June 1, 2015, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-pensions-attacks-idUSKBN0OH1OP….
- 11. "Japanese Companies Fall Victim To Unprecedented Wave of Cyber Attacks," The Diplomat, December 23, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/12/japanese-companies-fall-victim-to-unpre….
- 12. "Japan: Cyber-attacks on virus control system up by 400%," Anadolu Agency, March 19, 2021, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/health/japan-cyber-attacks-on-virus-control-sy….
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Global Freedom Score96 100 free
Internet Freedom Score76 100 free
Freedom in the World StatusFree