Business / Corporate

DeNA CEO apologizes over information website plagiarism scandal

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The CEO of DeNA Co., whose health care information website and others have been under fire following accusations of plagiarism and inaccurate reporting, apologized Wednesday over the scandal, vowing to investigate what went wrong.

“We’d like to sincerely apologize to all concerned parties and individuals for causing troubles and worries,” Isao Moriyasu, who is also the president of the company, said at a news conference in Tokyo.

“Regardless of forms of media, providing accurate information needs to be the first priority when operating a media business,” he said. “Our operation focused too much on growing the services.”

The Tokyo-based firm, which is best known for its mobile video games and professional baseball team, the Yokohama DeNA Baystars, said it will bring in an independent third-party panel to investigate the causes of the poorly handled media services, or so-called curated news sites.

Asked whether DeNA intends to continue its media business, which boasts 10 such news websites, Moriyasu said the firm will wait until the investigation is completed before making a decision.

DeNA says that despite growing sales and profits at its media business, it has no choice but to rethink its strategy due to the scandal.

The credibility of DeNA’s niche online information websites came into question in recent weeks, particularly its medical and health care site Welq, after it emerged that fact-checking was not properly carried out and that outside contributors were told to rewrite stories taken from other medical websites.

BuzzFeed Japan revealed how the company provided a manual to its writers instructing them how to rewrite information from other sources in an attempt to mitigate accusations of plagiarism and how to create stories that would likely top search engine lists.

As a result, the website, which included tips on curing physical problems such as backaches, headaches and insomnia, turned into a patchwork of stories from other websites without attribution.

“It was seriously wrong to provide medical information in an inappropriate manner when it needed to be handled with extra care,” Moriyasu said in a statement last Thursday.

While DeNA didn’t employ proper editing and fact-checking procedures, it did post a disclaimer that it was not responsible for the accuracy of the stories.

Many online users pointed out that Welq stories included typos and information discrepancies, which apparently resulted from the rewriting process.

Moriyasu said nine of its curator sites employed the manuals. Still, it remains unclear who ordered them made.

He also stressed that he did not have “proper knowledge of what it takes to run a media company, nor sufficient understanding of copyright procedures … to ensure the quality of articles.”

DeNA suspended Welq and also temporarily closed eight others on Dec. 1.

The remaining site, called Mery, provides fashion information and was scheduled to close down on Wednesday as well.

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