Can you regulate the Cyberspace? Should you?
It seems some forces in Japan think it’s possible and you should.
There has been a lot of efforts by the Japanese government in the last few weeks to regulate and censor the Internet in various ways.
2 weeks ago, Japan’s National Police Agency hinted it may soon require dating sites to register with public authorities for better control. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 different dating sites competing in Japan. The agency also tries to control crimes like child prostitution by introducing stricter age control verification systems. It said about 85 percent of all crimes related to online dating involve minors.
Activity in December
Earlier in December, the Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications proposed a new law which will lead to regulation of any online content in text and video form. This will include newspaper articles, TV broadcasts and even private blogs.
Starting December 10th, the same ministry also required mobile phone carriers to establish effective age verification systems to keep underaged users from accessing unsuitable mobile sites. Affected services include again dating sites in particular. Mobile sites with communication functions such as chat, forums or social networking are affected as well. Access to sites in question can then be granted only after receiving a guardian’s consent.
Also last month, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology (MEXT) held a meeting with the purpose of possibly revising Article 30 of the Copyright Law. With this initiative, lawmakers aim at regulating downloads from websites and P2P platforms. If the revision becomes reality, downloading of copyrighted files for private use will become illegal. Currently this as well as copying works (i.e. music files) for personal use is permitted in Japan!
Japanese right holders represent the main force behind this initiative claiming downloads of audio and video material from the Internet seriously endanger their business. However, the MEXT received over 7,000 comments (mostly negative) from the public. It is believed the revision may eventually lead to outlawing access to content available on video sharing Web sites as well.
Survey supports the government
It seems Japanese people generally agree with the idea of filtering online content, at least in the light of child protection issues.
Last Saturday, the Japanese government published a survey it conducted among 3,000 citizens in November 2007. More than 76 percent responded it is right to regulate the Internet in order to prevent minors from accessing unsuitable dating or adult-oriented sites.
If the government implements these ideas development of the Japanese Internet industry will be heavily constrained within its own territory. Also, a serious setback in international competitiveness must be expected.