NPO tackles cybercrime as government drags its feet

A group of lawyers, scholars and housewives has launched a nonprofit organization to help victims of libel, fraud and other problems that have seen a sharp increase on the Internet.

Shirogane Cyberpol, which began accepting inquiries on its home page on April 21, is the first NPO in Japan to focus on such problems.

Victims hope the site will become a kind of “kakekomi-dera” — a legendary Buddhist temple where, in feudal times, distressed wives sought refuge while awaiting divorce — amid government delays in coping with the problem.

Government employee Takakazu Seto set up Cyberpol after a friend complained in February about a libelous remark made to him on the Internet.

An exchange group to which Seto belongs discussed the incident and decided to launch the NPO soon after.

The growing popularity of the Internet in Japan has seen a corresponding increase in Internet-related problems. Net stalkers sending harassing e-mail and the display of mug shots and addresses without permission are just a few examples.

“Government controls on such cases may endanger freedom of expression,” said Masahiro Tajima, Shirogane Cyberpol president.

“We would like to work out our own rules about them in trying to resolve each case.”

Cyberpol lawyers offer advice free of charge and, when dealing with malicious cases, will ask e-mail senders, site managers and others to delete or correct defamatory messages.

If victims push for legal action, Cyberpol can introduce police and specialized lawyers experienced in dealing with such cases.

Cyberpol’s members include bureaucrats from the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry and the National Police Agency, along with Net business personnel, who will keep an eye on problem Web sites.

InfoCom Research Inc., affiliated with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., said in April that about 100 million people, or 79 percent of Japan’s population, are expected to have Internet access by fiscal 2004. Around 40 million households, or 83 percent of all households, will be hooked up to the Internet.