Japan: Bloggers respond to new filtering measures

Over the past week, Japan's major mobile phone operators have commenced filtering web access on mobile phones contracted to minors (users under 18 years of age), following on legislation introduced in late 2007 and on developments over the last year toward the regulation of “harmful” content. On January 30th, NTT Docomo became the first mobile phone company to apply [ja] the new filtering policy [ja], with others set to follow suit: KDDI Corp., parent company of mobile phone operator au by KDDI, will begin applying filtering on February 10th, while Softbank Mobile Corporation will start from the first week of February. While earlier measures had, over 2008, already enforced default web filtering on phones held by new users in some cases, the current filtering is more extensive and applies uniformly to all users under age 18 (and not only to new users).

Sites targeted by the new filtering policy include adult and dating (deaikei) sites, as well as so-called “communication sites”, which include bulletin boards and blog services. Some of the affected blog services have already posted explanations about the change to their users. At the goo staff blog [ja], an entry posted on February 2nd [ja] explains:


Starting from the end of January 2009, mobile phone companies (docomo, au, Softbank) have begun implementing a filtering system (access restriction) targeted at users under the age of 18.


The mobile phone version of goo is currently targeted by this filtering, and thus there is the possibility that reading and writing of blog entries may be blocked in cases where mobile phone contracts are registered in the name of users under the age of 18.


This filtering function can be disabled by contacting one of the shops of the mobile phone company. Users under the age of 18 should discuss the issue with their guardian and have the guardian visit the mobile phone shop and request to enable access to the mobile phone version of goo blogs, or inquire about the cancellation procedure.


goo blogs is making all possible efforts to ensure that users are able to make use of services securely and with peace of mind, and this may temporarily inconvenience users under the age of 18.


For more information, please contact your mobile phone company directly.

Not all Japanese social media sites will apparently be subject to the filtering, however. A J-CAST article [ja] explains that while Ameblo [ja], a popular blogging site featuring famous tarento bloggers, is subject to the filtering, Japan's hugely popular social networking service Mixi is exempt, as is Mobage Town, Japan's largest social network site with gaming functionality.

For the one in five Japanese who already choose to have their web access filtered, the moves described above will likely mean no great change. Many other bloggers, however, responded with puzzled reactions. One blogger writes [ja]:


Arg, talk about bad luck, all of a sudden they started filtering my mobile phone www
I can post entries to my blog, but there's an access restriction so I can't read them! /(^O^)\
I don't even know what to say…

At PECO's favorite things, blogger Peco writes:


They would be better off just making mobile phones without Internet access functionality.
I don't even understand in the first place what filtering really means anyway.
Suppose for example you blog obscene content,
Well what is obscene content?


Say for example there is a serious site on sex education, that site will be treated as obscene just because there are expressions like sex or male/female genitalia, right?


Girls are able to get married from age 16, and if they get married then they will naturally have a sex life. And legally, someone who is a minor but who is married and has children has to fulfill the obligations of an adult, a full-grown adult.


And yet despite this, they need to [have their mobile phones] filtered?

At Tokotoko Diary, another blogger warns readers [ja] that the filtering is not automatically removed when users turn age 18:


Incidentally, even when you become 18, the filtering is not automatically removed!
So please don't forget to apply [to get it removed] when you turn 18 (LOL)

Another blogger describes their experience requesting removal of filtering:


I cancelled the filtering!
I did it (´∀`)
I can view my own blog again.
I mean, isn't that unbelievable?
That you can't even see your own blog.
I'm so relieved.

Finally, while many bloggers were puzzled and confused by finding their blog entries blocked, others worried that the filtering was in fact not sufficient. Blogger Nakono Hitorigoto explains:


My own child of course has filtering [on their phone], but when he wants to see sites that are blocked, he says to me, “Take off the filtering.”


There isn't just one kind of filtering either, there are different options,
and I really have no idea how much gets through for different levels of filtering.


I'd really like to know a slightly easier way to choose….
(I guess I could study up on it, but I'm impatient and it's difficult.)

The blogger then makes a suggestion:


If for example just by seeing the URL you would know that [the page] would not be viewable if filtered,
and you could determine at what level of filtering [the page would not be viewable],
then just by seeing the address of the site that your child wants to see,
you could make your decision [about whether to let them see it or not].


I understand that [users] are free to exchange email on Pakeho [a discount plan on DoCoMo phones],
But the fact that they can access the Internet seems strange to me.
I really don't know far [filtering] on i-mode goes, how far it goes on i-apps,
and how far it goes on Pakeho.

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