by Mike Masnick
Wed, Feb 27th 2008 12:58pm
It appears that the Japanese government is growing a bit jealous of China's ability to censor anything the government doesn't like online. The Japanese government has proposed new internet regulations that would effectively do the same thing -- requiring Japanese ISPs to filter content that is considered "harmful." As the article notes, this stems from a long-time regulatory relationship between the government and existing news media in Japan -- which has apparently helped keep the same ruling party in power for decades. The internet has now allowed for more open dissent, which the government is hoping to reign in. Of course, the government insists there's nothing nefarious going on here at all. It says the proposal specifically says it's not about censorship (which should set off alarm bells that it clearly is about censorship). Instead, they say they just want to protect citizens against harmful materials. That's the type of soundbite that sounds good, but it's not supported by the actual proposal. If the government is upset about "harmful" information, then that information itself should be outlawed and those responsible for producing the harmful content should be prosecuted for it. Yet, that's not what this proposal is about. It's telling ISPs to determine what's harmful and to block it. And, as many in Japan are pointing out, mobile operators in the country recently started a "voluntary" effort to filter out harmful info, and it's blocking lots of perfectly legitimate info to be on the safe side. This proposal may not be quite as extreme as China's Great Firewall, but it's clearly a step in that direction.
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