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Osaka city releases online user names of people behind hate speech videos

Bulletin boards at the Ministry of Justice in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district are filled with 49 posters calling against hate speech campaigns, in this picture taken on June 3, 2016. The anti-hate speech law went into force that day. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- The Osaka Municipal Government on June 1 released online user names of those who uploaded three videos recognized as racially discriminatory hate speech under the city's anti-hate speech ordinance.

Despite the decree, which allows the municipal government to release names of individuals and groups carrying out actions recognized as hate speech, the real names of those who uploaded the three videos were unable to be identified due to regulations concerning personal information protection and privacy of communications. Instead, the municipal government decided to make their user names on a video sharing site public after a report from a panel of experts.

With regard to the videos showing one demonstration rally and two street propaganda events held in 2013 in the city of Osaka, the panel concluded at the end of March this year that the act of uploading those videos, in which demonstrators repeatedly use offensive and defamatory words targeting Korean residents in Japan, thereby making them available online to an unspecified number of viewers, constituted hate speech. The city then consulted the panel about the matter.

It was the first time the municipal government slapped hate speech labels on videos since the city's anti-hate speech ordinance came into effect in July last year. The videos have already been removed from the website.

Since internet providers are required to maintain confidentiality under the Telecommunications Business Act, the municipal government cannot obtain the names of those who uploaded the videos without their consent. The city requested, via the website operator, that the users disclose their names and other information, but they either denied to do so or did not respond.

On May 31, the panel proposed to the city to release the user names of those who posted the three videos since it was difficult to find out their real identity. While the municipal government announced the user names on its website on the following day accordingly, with an explanation that the user names correspond to the real names as they function as common names used among the website users and therefore are socially recognized, city officials said it is unknown whether their user names are the same as their account names, which can identify the people behind the hate speech videos.

Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters during a regular news conference on June 1 that the city intends to raise the issue for the national government to debate on what are the interests that are protected by law in today's internet society.

On its website, the municipal government quoted what was being said in the videos, with a comment warning that the contents are inappropriate. The panel discussed the possibility of secondary damages by quoting chants at hate speech demonstrations, but the city argues that by making local residents aware of those hate speech events, it looks to increase human rights awareness among the public to prevent future incidents.

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