Japan Clamps Down on Internet

Has the Japanese media been softening the public up for an internet clampdown?

James Corbett
Corbett Report

December 29, 2007

The internet clampdown begins in Japan and Australia

A poll appeared on the homepage of The Japan Times today asking readers to rate the top Web/Tech news in Japan for 2007. The stories available to vote on focused heavily on the negative side of the internet, with stories on Keeping kids safe from the dangers of the internet, the proliferation of so-called suicide websites where suicidal Japanese go to arrange group suicides in remote locations, and personal data being leaked over the internet by a civil servant using a file sharing program (which has happened again and again and again). Taken seperately, these stories might indicate nothing more than a growing awareness of the risks associated with the internet, but a recent article shows these disparate stories may be connected after all.

Gyaku.jp released a report Thursday entitled Regulating the Japanese cyberspace, one step at a time which details how reports tabled by the Japanese government over the past month have begun a process of regulating every aspect of the internet in Japan, from file sharing to mobile phone internet access to web content. Even user-generated blogs will be effected by these new regulations. One of the most chilling passages of this extensively researched article reads:

Online content judged to be "harmful" according to standards set down by an independent body (specifics of which are unclear) will be subject to law-enforced removal and/or correction. While the interim report did not specify whether penal regulations would be enforced against policy violations, the final report, in response to concerns voiced in public comments over the summer, moved toward excluding such regulations for the time being at least. Nonetheless, the final report also notes that, if there is a need for it, the "adequacy of punishment should also be investigated" (page 22 of the final report). It thus remains an open question as to whether, if eventually enacted, penal regulations will be applied and, if so, what form they will take.

The idea of possible legal actions being taken against purveyors of web content which a government-appointed body deems "harmful" is more reminiscent of communist China than the free society most associate with Japan. Perhaps this is just another indication that Japan is not such a free society after all.

These Orwellian controls are not likely to be limited to Japan, either. Earlier this year Tony Blair was calling for internet censorship (and we all know what a nutter he is). And curiously, this crop of Japanese legislation has been tabled at almost the exact same time as an almost exactly identical set of restrictions has been introduced in Australia. Can the US and Canada be far behind?

Make what one will of the fact that a slew of government data leaks led to the tainting of file sharing programs in the Japanese public's eye, or the fact that government-sourced internet scaremongering stories are dominating the Japan Times internet year-in-review poll. The fact is that internet censorship is coming to Japan, although so far the Japanese public hasn't seemed to notice. Perhaps the current crop of police state thugs in power in the West are looking on at this cyberspace experiment with envy.