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Japan: Government Discusses How to Deal with “Revenge Porn”

(Nov. 20, 2013) In early October 2013, an 18 year-old Japanese high school girl was killed by her ex-boyfriend. The case became national news in Japan. An aspect of the case that was considered particularly disturbing was the fact that the killer had distributed “revenge porn” about a week before the killing. He posted pornographic images and videos of the victim on Twitter. (<!–?Japan. Deemed even more disturbing was the fact that the killer had committed "revenge porn" about a week before the killing. He posted pornographic images and videos of the victim on Twitter. (Mitaka joshikosei shisatsu jiken, higaisha no gazo/doga no netto kakusan, dou kangaeru? [Mitaka High School Girl Murder Case, Spread of Victim’s Image and Video on Internet, What Do We Think?], THE HUFFINGTON POST JAPAN (Oct. 9, 2013).)

“Revenge porn” is defined in one U.S. state as the posting of “identifiable nude pictures of someone else online without permission with the intent to cause emotional distress or humiliation.” (Jerry Brown Signs Anti-Revenge Porn Bill, THE HUFFINGTON POST (Oct. 2, 2013).) California recently passed an anti-revenge porn law based on this definition. (Id.)

The Members of the Budget Committee of Japan’s House of Councillors, on October 23 and 24, 2013, summoned government officials to a meeting and asked them how to punish revenge porn and whether new legislation was needed. The Minister of Justice, Sadakazu Tanigaki, stated that most of acts of revenge porn can be punished under current Penal Code provisions, such as those against defamation and the propagation of obscenities. (Minutes of Budget Committee, House of Councillors, No. 1 of 185th Session, Oct. 24, 2013 [in Japanese], House of Councillors website; Penal Code, Act No. 45 of 1907, arts. 230 & 175, Japanese Law Translation website [conduct search].)

In addition to the Penal Code, if a victim is younger than 18 years old, the Child Pornography Act can apply. (Child Pornography Act, Act No. 52 of 1999, Japanese Law Translation website [conduct search].) However, the Minister of Justice stated that he would also examine whether a new law is needed.

A representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC) commented that Japan is dealing with illegal information posted on the Internet through reliance on the telecommunication industry’s voluntary rules. He stated that the industry guidelines clarify in which cases the provider can delete the contents of postings. He added that the MIAC has established a center for consultation on illegal and harmful information that can provide advice to victims. (Minutes of Budget Committee, House of Councillors, No. 2 of 185th Session, Oct. 24, 2013, supra.)