Japan Government monitoring of Twitter and personal blogs

Since March 11, 2011 it has been frequently reported that YouTube videos containing footage or comments unfavorable to Tepco or the Japanese government have been removed within several hours of their posting. Examples of offending YouTube videos include excerpts of TV shows with controversial comments, footage showing smoke emitted from the nuclear reactors, an ex-Tepco employee speaking on his Fukushima experiences etc.

Also, “agents” would show up in engineers-only internet forums, and interrupt with completely off-base pro-nuclear politically motivated comments. Likewise, Twitter accounts with too much content regarding nuclear power and radiation issues have been disrupted.

More recently, “The Computer Network Monitoring Law” was passed by the Japanese Parliament on June 17 2011

This law make it possible for police to obligate internet servers to store someone’s communication for three months for monitoring purposes without obtaining a court warrant. Prof. Ibusuki of Seijo Univ. Law Dept. comments that “The Computer Network Monitoring Law” will enable the police to monitor anyone’s internet activity without restriction.

Although the above law is large in scope and appears on the surface to be beneficial, i.e., targeted at addressing cyber-attacks in general, some Japanese commentators are suggesting that the law is un-Constitutional, and at the very least the potential for abuse is high, as the following makes clear.

Last Friday, July 15, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (METI), Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, opened a call for bids (tender) regarding the “Nuclear Power Safety Regulation Publicity Project”, for contractors to monitor blogs and tweets posted about nuclear power and radiation.
METI’s procedures on bidding: http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/info/tender/tenddata/1106/110624b/110624b.htm

Bottom of above webpage has links to pdf documents that pertain to the conditions and responsibilities for the Contractors.

In particular, this document outlines the tasks that the Contractor will be expected to perform.

Translated Summary:

The Contractor is required to monitor blogs on nuclear power and radiation issues as well as Twitter accounts (monitoring tweets is essential) around the clock, and conduct research and analysis on incorrect and inappropriate information that would lead to false rumors, and to report such internet accounts to the Agency.
When the Contractor becomes aware of such incorrect and inappropriate information, it is required to publish correct information in Q&A form on the website and Twitter account of the Agency, after consulting with experts and engineers if necessary. The Agency is to be notified of ANY consultant experts and engineers in advance.
The Contractor is required to keep the Agency well informed on the internet accounts and keywords used in the blogs and Twitter accounts that are posting incorrect and inappropriate information. The Contractor is required to maintain sufficient number of personnel for around-the-clock monitoring. The Contractor is required to submit report on internet accounts via CD-R.

The Contractor is expected to perform its duties from the date of signing until March 30, 2012.

 

*Commentary:

Doctor Onoda who used to work in the Fukushima nuclear plant and has lots of good information on his blog onodekita.com/, gave the following estimates:

10 staff members (2000 yen/hour) x 24 hours x 210 days (7 months from August 1) = 100 million yen. Supervisors will be paid much more and adding computer related costs and other operational costs, the whole project will add up to over 300 million yen. Dr. Onoda is sure that his blog will be blacklisted soon.

* Additional commentary

Note that this document which spells out the tasks to be performed by the Contractor, does not state that blogs or Twitter accounts which run afoul of METI’s guidelines are to be banned or frozen. The question is, will METI draw the line at “clarifying” erroneous information, or in the future, will it act to clamp down and suppress sources of information that it finds inconvenient.

By Stig & Kyoko