Japanese Court Orders Google To Remove Customer Reviews From Its Maps Service -- Globally

from the long-arm-of-the-law dept

The following story from Japan, reported by Techcrunch, might seem to be an everyday internet tale of privacy and freedom of speech interacting badly:

The Chiba District Court today issued a preliminary injunction forcing the U.S. internet company to remove two anonymous reviews for an undisclosed medical clinic in the country. While they document negative customer experiences at the clinic, neither review violates the policies that Google has in place for user generated content within the Maps service.
Nothing special there, you might think, but there's a sting in the tail:
The court ruled that Google not only removes the content in Japan, but across the entire globe too.
That's troubling, because it's yet another case of a local court asserting its right to affect what happens across the entire internet -- the best-known example being the EU's claim that its privacy regulations have to apply globally if they are to be effective. It's worrying to see a similar ruling from Japan, albeit only in a preliminary injunction, and one that Google is appealing against, because it risks normalizing that view, with serious consequences for the online world. Far from being a domain subject to no rules, as politicians love to claim, the internet would begin to turn into the one place that has to obey every country's laws.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:18am

    The Court of the Sovereign Internet has denied your request.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:13am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 24th, 2015 @ 9:18am

      If Europe gets to demand similar actions under their "right to be forgotten" laws, then why should Japan's laws be ignored? Or China or North Korea or Syria or the US?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:25am

    If everything on the internet required to obey all laws, then there would be no internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 10:45am

      Re:

      You'd almost think that maybe the IP maximalists were submitting amicus curiae briefs to all these courts in different countries to achieve just such a goal...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:29am

    What happens when...

    Islamic court says websites promoting infidel religions must be removed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:49am

      Re: What happens when...

      Including Shinto and Buddhism. Yeah, that would go over big in Japan, and elsewhere.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 26 Apr 2015 @ 1:35am

        Re: Re: What happens when...

        Might be fun to sue Google to compel them to do exactly that in Japan...not seriously of course, but once you file the lawsuit declaring Shinto a blasphemy against Allah, point out to the Japanese government that if a Japanese court can order the removal of links in Iran...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:29am

    Next up, Iranian courts rule all Christian content must be removed from Google for being blasphemous against Islam. Google must remove all this content from the entire globe.

    Then follows China. Demanding that all references of the Tiananmen Square massacre must be removed from Google. Globally.

    Isn't global censorship fun? Weeeee!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:59pm

      Re:

      Then follows North Korea demanding all content except what the glorious leader approves to be removed from internet.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Apr 2015 @ 1:39am

      Re:

      Islamic governments don't prohibit Christianity, they 'merely' tax it and apply certain advertising-based restrictions (none of which would be legal in the US, mind you). Judaism operates under similar restrictions in Islamic countries.

      The reasoning is they all worship the same God, they just have disagreements about who the Messiah is and what name God prefers.

      Shinto on the other hand, is anathema in Islamic countries since it involves worship of deities other than Allah.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:33am

    See if you can dig up the company name, the reviews, and post them here on Techdirt. Then see if Japan can do anything about forcing Techdirt to remove those reviews.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:36am

      Re:

      In fact disgruntled reviewers should ensure that their reviews are also being duplicated in mirror sites that aren't within the jurisdiction of their countries and would not easily fold to local rulings against them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:38am

    Right!

    Yeah, like that is about to happen, removing content across the globe. I'd like to see Google shut down all of its services for 2 weeks to the countries that try to force it to comply with stupid shit, and see just how fast these assholes capitulate, realizing that they are WAAAAY over their heads and have no clue how the Internet works!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 10:07am

      Re: Right!

      2 weeks! the riots would start after 2 minutes, especially by those people who rely on Google to get to their Facebook page.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:43am

    Sometimes it really IS conspiracy, not stupidity

    We should be careful to question whether these rulings are the product of ignorance or design. No country wants other countries' laws to apply to it. Every country will claim that their laws should apply globally because the Internet is global. There's nothing any country can do to stop other countries' courts from making rulings like this or punishing multinationals for not complying. The most logical response if this practice takes hold will be for companies who operate in multiple jurisdictions to start segmenting their operations and thus the Internet itself like countries are.

    We should not shy away from the possibility that this is the endgame of these decisions and from taking immediate action to prevent it. The Internet is the best hope we have for a truly global future, and we cannot allow this hope to be dashed by the malicious designs of a few who wish to keep the world locked in perpetual nation-state conflict.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 24 Apr 2015 @ 10:15am

      Re: Sometimes it really IS conspiracy, not stupidity

      Corps already do a lot of that, but generally for a tax basis. It's time to do that for other operations is this becomes a trend. Google Japan is a separate company with exclusive licensing/agreements with Google US.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:51pm

      Re: Sometimes it really IS conspiracy, not stupidity

      ...No country wants other countries' laws to apply to it...


      Age of consent, age allowance for nude modeling, and prostitution come to mind, but I'm sure there are other examples of one country's law(s) differing from another.

      And don't get me started on Sharia Law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bergman (profile), 26 Apr 2015 @ 1:42am

        Re: Re: Sometimes it really IS conspiracy, not stupidity

        A good example, at least on the porn side of things, is breasts and genitals.

        Showing breasts isn't considered obscene or illegal in Japan, but showing a penis or vagina is. I wonder how Japanese people would react if every image in Japan that showed breasts suddenly sported a censor bar when viewed via a Google search -- would they accept an explanation that showing breasts is illegal in other countries so Google has to censor globally?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Blackfiredragon13 (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 9:56am

    My question is if the Internet has to follow the lawsof every country what happens when two countries have laws with that are the opposite Olof each other. Ex: Country A has law that says you can't advertise your competitors and country B says you have to for anti-competitive reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 10:10am

    My guess is that the court asked for those two specific reviews be removed, as you can see from a quick look:
    Akihabara's Gundum Cafe

    Asking for those specific reviews to be removed due to local jurisdictional issues isn't anything new. Hell look at Google's transparency report on Thailand: link, A country well known for removal of criticism about royalty or the government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Apr 2015 @ 2:56am

      Re:

      Yeah, but the key difference here is that Google obeys the laws in the country they operate in. Japan is demanding the right to reach into foreign, sovereign countries and censor them too.

      Wars have been fought over lesser breaches of national sovereignty than a court issuing orders to be applied inside of foreign countries.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 10:44am

    Local laws, global Internet

    In its core, this conflict happens because laws are supposed to affect only things under their own jurisdiction, but the Internet is global and thus present on almost all jurisdictions at the same time.

    Something has to give. Either the Internet will fragment itself so each piece is under a well-defined jurisdiction, or law itself will become global.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:01am

      Re: Local laws, global Internet

      Something has to give. Either the Internet will fragment itself so each piece is under a well-defined jurisdiction, or law itself will become global.

      Why the Internet itself does a good job of self policing. Major crime aided by the Internet are prosecuted, so why should people with thin skins, an exaggerated sense of entitlement, or those trying to keep a failing business going, dictate what can happen on the Internet?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 3:00pm

      Re: Local laws, global Internet

      Something has to give. Either the Internet will fragment itself so each piece is under a well-defined jurisdiction, or law itself will become global.

      How about determining jurisdiction according to where the content is hosted?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 27 Apr 2015 @ 8:08am

        Re: Re: Local laws, global Internet

        "How about determining jurisdiction according to where the content is hosted?"

        A few years ago, I would have said that since this is an easy and common-sense solution, it would never happen. However, in this age of "the cloud", it's no longer so easy to know where the content is hosted.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2015 @ 9:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Local laws, global Internet

          If not according to where the content is hosted then according to where the website's legal owner has a physical nexus. Google's problem is that it has such a presence in many countries. I don't know if Japan is one of them.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:27am

    Just change a few words for each case

    the best-known example being the EU's claim that its privacy regulations have to apply globally if they are to be effective.

    Just change a few words.

    China's censorship has to apply globally if it is to be effective.

    Some state's kindergarden reading room policies of decency have to apply globally if it is to be effective.

    Some other state's anti-gambling laws have to apply globally if it is to be effective.

    Should someone say: this will break the internet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:35am

    TPP

    This is why the TPP is so important. With TPP in place, Google could thumb it's nose at the court and when they get fined, they could just fine the Japanese government to get their money back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:44am

    you can blame the USA for this. it always thinks that whatever it wants shut, lost, removed applies to the world, but like so many other things the USA does, it doesn't like it when the shoe is on the other foot. perhaps if the US courts didn't try to exceed their jurisdiction, no one else would? this seems to be particularly joined to the entertainment industries and attempts to get companies in other nations closed down, just because those industries dont like what the company is doing but hasn't yet had it's balls drop to get a bit of gumption!! typical bully-boy tactics!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RR, 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:53am

    Court, or law?

    Did the court decide on its own that it should be world wide? Or is that what the written law says? The answer changes who is to blame, and where to look for the fix.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 12:33pm

    Google.jp

    Google.jp is not accessible from within Japan. Please use Google.us instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CP, 24 Apr 2015 @ 12:51pm

    Possible Response

    I think it is time for Google to grow a pair and cite Arkell v. Pressdram in their response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 1:13pm

    On the red courtesy phone

    Calling King Canute!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    vandon (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:21pm

    corporate sovereignty used for good?

    Here's a case where the hated corporate sovereignty treaties can be used for good. Google could sue Japan for interfering with its business model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:35pm

    One country passes a law and its court rules that it must be enforced globally.

    Another country passes the exact opposite of the first country's law, and it too rules that it must be enforced globally.

    Watch as the two opposing courts destroy themselves in a puff of logic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 12:34am

    More realisticly... Google may have to set up a japanese subsidiary and have that company handle all the servers and services as it relates to Japan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 25 Apr 2015 @ 8:39am

    If Google blocked searches for "teenage girl octopus rape anime" in Japan for a week, the country would quickly capitulate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 10:00am

    WTF?

    I thought the USA was the only country with worldwide jurisdiction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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