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In rare ruling, Tokyo court bans future defamatory blog posts against man

The Tokyo District Court's Tachikawa branch is shown in this file photo. (Mainichi/Nana Hayashida)

TOKYO -- A Tokyo District Court branch has taken the rare step of banning future defamatory blog posts against a man who was targeted online with accusations he was involved with criminal groups.

    In its decision, the Tokyo District Court's Tachikawa branch said the accusations against the man "cannot be verified as true," and acknowledged the posts as defamation.

    While judicial decisions ordering existing posts to be removed have already been firmly established, it is unusual for an injunction banning future posts to be recognized, out of concern that it will threaten individuals' freedom of expression. As online abuse has become a social problem, experts have praised the ruling as "a decision that will help save victims" from such abuse.

    According to the March 24 ruling, numerous entries including those claiming that the man was "connected with 'antisocial forces'" were posted on a blog starting in 2019. The man identified the source as a political organization following an information disclosure process, and asked the group's representative to quit making the posts. However, the entries continued to appear on the blog, prompting him to file for a provisional disposition order demanding that the posts be halted.

    Noting that an image of the man's house had also been uploaded on the blog, the ruling stated that the blog entries also infringed on the man's right to lead a peaceful life. The court decision also focused on the fact that similar posts were made continuously even after the man had requested that they be put to an end. The ruling accordingly banned future posts, stating, "It is extremely likely that the posts will continue to be uploaded. The entries contain affirmative expressions that lack moderation, and content that invade into a person's private space in an unjust manner. This deviates from the permitted range of political activities and freedom of expression."

    Kazuhito Ozawa, a lawyer representing the man, praised the ruling as a "groundbreaking decision."

    "A means of rescuing victims has been recognized for cases where the poster has been identified but ignores requests to stop making similar posts," he said.

    Tomohiro Kanda, lawyer and expert on internet-related lawsuits, pointed out, "Courts tend to show restraint regarding injunctions banning future posts as it relates to one's freedom of expression. As we frequently see cases where posters repeatedly create similar posts after existing ones are deleted, an injunction banning future posts could possibly be one solution."

    (Japanese original by Kazuhiro Toyama, City News Department)

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