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Tokyo 2020 organizing committee watching social media over fear of fake news

In this file photo, the numbers "2020" are projected onto a building at an event marking three years until the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympic Games in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on July 24, 2017. (Mainichi)

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is monitoring social media trends ahead of the 2020 event to prevent the spread of flaming and fake news as well as to ensure the prompt delivery of correct information.

    "In modern society, the voices of the public can be seen," a committee representative stated. "Therefore, we don't believe that we will be able to spend the next 1,000 days until the opening ceremony unscathed."

    The cautious monitoring of online activity began last summer. By entering related keywords such as "Tokyo Olympics," the committee can search content on Twitter and other platforms in real time and grasp topics regarding the Games being discussed in numerical terms. If the use of a keyword selected by the committee reaches a set number of mentions as it spreads online, a heads-up message is automatically sent to personnel in charge. If criticism of the issue continues, the committee may consider posting a statement on their homepage or take other steps to deal with the problem.

    In July this year, the plan to ask local governments nationwide to provide wood to be used for the roof and columns for the "Village Plaza" facility for athletes to interact with one another attracted a backlash. In response to reports that the wood would be collected for free from around the country, critical voices online commented, "Pay properly," "That's called a 'contribution'" and "Why do you try to procure wood for free?"

    The organizing committee then immediately added, "We are thankful for receiving the wonderful suggestion from many local governments across the country that we use local wood for this project, and we've been considering the offer," to the official homepage where the project was introduced. According to the committee, criticism online was only temporary, and the number of mentions was reportedly less than a hundredth compared to keywords like "high school baseball" and "typhoon," which were also trending around the same time.

    In addition, two topics that also gathered negative attention were the start of applications for volunteer staff set for next summer and a project to collect unwanted cellphones and small electronic appliances from the public to use their metal in the making of the medals for the games. For both cases, the fact that the staff work and the receipt of electronics are all expected to be done for free were the source of critical opinions, but the committee analyzed the number of social media posts, and finding that the criticism had subsided, decided to remain silent.

    "Do the issues brought up online accurately reflect the opinions of the majority of the people? From the standpoint of sending out information, we need to grasp if this is true or not," explained a representative.

    The committee believes that the key to the success of the 2020 Games is "participation." The public call for wood and electronics is part of this policy. The committee also plans to choose the mascots for the event via ballots filled out by the nation's elementary school students.

    The committee plans to continue drawing up projects that include the most people possible. "The whole nation is supposed to be involved in the Games, so it's only natural that various opinions are voiced," said spokesman Masanori Takaya. "Even then, I want to appeal to everyone that there is a lot of value in participating."

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