Thursday, April 10, 2008

The great bento box?

China remains flavour of the month for the scornful diatribes of the liberal bloggitensia. And not without reason.

We were interested, then to pick up on the almost unnoticed developments in Japan where the government is moving substantially to step up it regulation of the Internet. A piece in last Saturday's Age newspaper from Melbourne is headlined "Japan's garrulous bloggers go strangely silent". It goes on to note "the government's proposal to regulate Internet content, including forcible correction or deletion of material on blogs, personal websites and bulletin boards, passes with little uproar".

Even in polite and law-abiding Japan, this seems a little odd. As the article points out, "Japan's technophile population has created one of the world's most vibrant internet cultures and arguably its biggest blogosphere". As we reported a year ago (albeit with some scepticism), Japanese is the most prevalent language of blogging worldwide, accounting for 37% of all blog posts.

Some of the reaction in Japan has been predictably vigorous according to the article:

Kazuo Hizumi, a journalist-turned-lawyer who blogs prolifically on media issues, has been particularly scathing. "If you look at the fascist movement in prewar Japan, the dangers in the regulation of information by the Government are obvious.

"That the Government is going to get involved in selecting, by means of filtering software, what information should be blocked -- this is completely outrageous. This absolutely cannot be allowed."

The Japanese government, of course, is having none of that: "The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication says this is a silly overreaction. Its proposal to regulate online content, it says, is merely an attempt to bring order to Japan's enormous and chaotic web community, where members often use message boards to launch character assassinations and make defamatory claims".

Bringing order is the excuse most commonly trotted out for Beijing's more egregious impositions on personal freedom. Let's hope that the Japanese are not looking across the East China Sea for guidance on the subject of Internet regulation.

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