In this era of fake news and COVID-19 misinformation, social media giants — and the amplified role they can play in shaping public opinion — have come under intense scrutiny worldwide.
A similar kind of social media reckoning is now catching up with Japan, too, after a recent string of events has accelerated conversations about online harassment and cyberbullying.
While Facebook is the center of the reassessment of social media companies’ role in the United States, it’s Twitter that is seen as the most influential in Japan, where the platform has its second-largest market after the United States.
“Twitter is huge in Japan. As far as platforms for anonymous speech go, it is the most influential,” says Taro Yamada, an internet-savvy lawmaker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who has played a key role in the party’s internal discussions about how to curb online defamation. “It is also significantly affecting the way public opinion is shaped.”
Twitter’s dominance has helped make the microblogging service deeply intertwined with the lives of many Japanese, turning it not only into a popular tool of self-expression and communication, but also a critical information hub in the event of natural disasters.
At the same time, however, various opinions and myths have taken root around Twitter Japan, the Japanese arm of the U.S.-headquartered Twitter Inc., including accusations that offensive tweets written in Japanese are not properly policed and removed by…