Japan aims for swift deletion of defamatory posts with legal revisions

The Japanese government is planning to submit a bill for a legal revision to oblige the operators of social media platforms such as X, Instagram and YouTube to delete content that defames individuals or businesses.

The Japanese government is gearing up to introduce legal revisions aimed at expediting the removal of defamatory content on social media platforms, including platforms such as X, Instagram, and YouTube. Under the proposed bill, operators will be obligated to promptly delete content that defames individuals or businesses. The legislation will also require operators to disclose to users who request content removal whether posts have been deleted and the reasons for any denials.

Under the planned legislation, social media operators will be legally obliged to promptly delete content deemed defamatory. Additionally, within a specified timeframe, these operators will be required to communicate to users who have submitted deletion requests whether the posts in question have been removed and provide clear reasons if requests are denied. This transparency initiative aims to keep users informed about the status of their requests and ensure a more accountable content removal process.

Crucially, the proposed legal revisions go beyond mere content removal requirements. The bill mandates that platform operators develop and publicize comprehensive guidelines for the deletion of posts. This includes information on the process itself, ensuring users have a clear understanding of how to navigate content removal procedures. Furthermore, the guidelines will explicitly state who users should contact when filing deletion requests, streamlining the communication process between users and platform operators.

The legislative efforts are focused on amending the Provider Liability Limitation Act, with the government planning to submit the bill during the upcoming ordinary Diet session, which begins this month. The Provider Liability Limitation Act was previously amended in 2022 to simplify procedures for obtaining information necessary to file damages suits against individuals responsible for posting defamatory content. However, the need for swifter removal of such content has prompted a renewed legislative push.

In the fiscal year 2022, a consultation centre outsourced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications received an astonishing 5,700 inquiries related to social media posts. Despite platform operators deploying both personnel and artificial intelligence for monitoring and deletion, defamatory content continues to proliferate, highlighting the urgency for more robust regulatory measures.

Platforms like YouTube, grappling with a multitude of content, face intricate challenges in balancing the speed of deletion with considerations of fairness and potential risks to freedom of expression. YouTube Japan representative Akiko Nakajo emphasized that the decision-making process for potential content removal involves navigating complexities to ensure fairness and uphold principles of free expression.

The proposed legal revisions are poised to strike a delicate balance between protecting individuals and businesses from defamation and safeguarding the principles of fairness and freedom of expression in the digital realm. As Japan takes a significant step toward reinforcing its regulatory framework for online platforms, these revisions could set a precedent for how other nations approach the evolving challenges of content moderation and online defamation.