NIIGATA – A court Friday ordered an internet service provider to disclose information on one of its users after a Niigata couple filed a lawsuit claiming the user had uploaded a photo of their baby daughter without permission to accompany a false Twitter post last year.
Akira Oshima, 38, and his wife sought the disclosure after a photo of their daughter taken during a demonstration in August 2014 was attached to a tweet in July 2015, in which the user falsely stated that a grandchild had died from heat after being taken to a protest rally against security bills held in front of the Diet.
“It is obvious that (the child’s) portrait rights have been infringed by the user making a post with the photo attached,” said Niigata District Court presiding Judge Tomoyasu Kondo.
“The plaintiffs have a just reason to be awarded information disclosure in demanding damages from the user,” he added.
Oshima said: “It is a big step forward toward protecting my daughter’s rights. “This ruling also will be significant for people caught up in similar cases.”
The service provider had argued during the trial that disclosing user information would not necessarily lead to identification of the actual person. A lawyer representing the company declined to comment, saying a formal statement on the ruling had not yet been received.
The Oshimas’ lawsuit against the provider comes after the Tokyo District Court in September last year ordered Twitter to disclose the user’s IP address and other information, which helped them identify the internet company.
Cases of defamation through the internet have been on the rise in Japan.
The cases include remarks from so-called netouyo, internet right-wingers who attack people they deem unpatriotic by posting their names, occupations or rumors on social media.
“The current law sets strict hurdles to protect confidentiality of communication and freedom of expression, but it should be reviewed to meet the current situation to require service providers to manage information on users so that people who incur damages don’t have to file lawsuits many times,” said Harumichi Yuasa, professor of information law at Institute of Information Security.
According to Yuasa, the law regarding the responsibility of internet service providers, enacted in 2002, took into account online forums and emails. But messages posted on Twitter and other social networking services spread much more quickly, leading to greater damage.
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