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The Tokyo District Court on Thursday ordered the operator of an Internet chat room to pay a total of 4 million yen to a cosmetics firm and its head because content on one of its message boards defamed them.

Presiding Judge Takashi Saito ordered Hiroyuki Nishimura, who runs the 2-Channel chat room, to pay 3 million yen to DHC Corp. and 1 million yen to Yoshiaki Yoshida.

The plaintiffs claimed that Nishimura failed to prevent people from posting remarks on the site that claimed many DHC employees were Yoshida’s mistresses and that DHC products were harmful to the skin. They added that the situation was aggravated because the site allows posting of anonymous messages.

The site operator argued that the law concerning Internet responsibility does not oblige him to monitor slanderous remarks, and that he has a system whereby content can be deleted upon request based on set criteria.

Saito said, however, that anonymity can weaken people’s resistance to slander others, and given the ease and speed by which information can be sent via the Internet, Nishimura was obliged to delete damaging remarks.

The court also questioned the objectivity and effectiveness of the site’s message removal system.

The plaintiffs had demanded compensation of 500 million yen for DHC and 100 million yen for Yoshida. They also demanded that the slanderous remarks be removed but later withdrew this request.

The 2-Channel Web site, with message boards covering more than 400 topics, was launched by Nishimura in May 1999 when he was still a university student.

A few hundred volunteers help run the site, which claims to receive as many as 30 million hits and 1 million messages a day.

2-Channel has been the object of much criticism, with participants often being sued by companies and individuals over what they post. The Justice Ministry also recently requested that the site delete photos and information on the 12-year-old boy suspected of killing a 4-year-old boy in Nagasaki Prefecture.

Suzuki wins lawsuit

Publisher Shinchosha Co. was ordered Thursday by the Tokyo District Court to pay 1 million yen to Muneo Suzuki, a House of Representatives member accused of taking bribes, for calling him a “hard-core liar.”

According to the ruling, Shinchosha described Suzuki as such in the Feb. 7, 2002, issue of the Shukan Shincho weekly magazine, which reported on a conflict between Suzuki and former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka over the participation of a nongovernmental organization in an international Afghan aid conference in January 2002.

Suzuki, 55, sought 10 million yen in compensation from the publisher for damaging his reputation.

Presiding Judge Yoshiteru Kawamura said the report failed to prove fully that the lawmaker had lied, and added that the expression was humiliating.

Suzuki, who has been detained since his arrest June 19, 2002, is accused of taking a total of 11 million yen in bribes from two construction companies.