National / Crime & Legal

Yahoo Japan defamed man by displaying false search results: Tokyo High Court

Kyodo

The Tokyo High Court has ruled that Yahoo Japan Co. defamed a man and has ordered that it delete 11 search results that associate his name with criminal behavior, sources have confirmed.

The man had requested a provisional order to have the search results removed, the sources said Friday.

The man claimed that his reputation was damaged by false information brought up by Yahoo’s search engine, such as an allegation that he “belonged to an antisocial group,” a euphemistic Japanese phrase for gangsters. Other results alleged people were blackmailed by the man.

Presiding Judge Toshifumi Saiki concluded that the man “does not have any connections to antisocial groups,” and judged that if it is apparent such search results neither serve the public interest nor have any truth to them, they constitute defamation by the web portal.

The Tokyo District Court ordered the results’ deletion in December 2015 and August 2016. Yahoo appealed the decision to the Tokyo High Court, but the appeal was formally dismissed on Oct. 30.

Given the dismissal, Yahoo altered the search results so as not to display the 11 items, but the company also filed a motion to have a formal trial.

In response, the man filed a new suit with the Tokyo District Court in December, demanding the 11 results be deleted completely.

The Supreme Court, in a separate judgment involving a person’s arrest record, ruled in January 2017 that the deletion of search results is justified when the need to protect privacy clearly overrides the public interest. But that ruling did not issue a judgment on whether displaying such results constituted defamation.

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