2 Channel founder says don't blame him for criminals' posts

2 Channel founder says don't blame him for criminals' posts Hiroyuki Nishimura FILE PHOTO

Over the past few years 2 Channel (2ch) has become the largest online forum in Japan, registering up to 200 million hits a day. Launched by college student Hiroyuki Nishimura in 1999, the site is often at the center of controversy and was criticized in June after it was used by the suspect in the Akihabara stabbing rampage to announce his plans.

Freelance journalist Tetsuya Shibui interviews Nishimura for Shukan Post.

The suspect in the Akihabara rampage has told police he killed people because his messages were ignored on 2ch.

That case has nothing to do with us. I don’t believe he killed people just because he was ignored online. He says he doesn’t have friends. But it’s not surprising people like him don’t have friends. But that alone cannot be a reason for murder. It’s too simple to think the Internet causes such crimes.

Many crime announcements have been made on 2ch since the Akihabara case. Do you have any plans to change the site?

Not at all. 2Ch has clear rules of use that allow people to request deletion of messages and a system to report inappropriate messages.

Don’t you think it’s irresponsible for you to make your users take all the responsibility?

I don’t think so. I always cooperate with police when I think some messages clearly indicate a crime may be involved and when police request disclosure of posters’ information such as IP addresses, we oblige.

2ch also carries information on how to commit crimes, does it not?

No, no, no. Many people misunderstand 2ch. It has links to other websites which might contain information like how to make a bomb, but that’s a matter for other websites to address, not 2ch.

However, 2ch recently carried detailed information on the spate of hydrogen sulfide gas suicides.

Yes, 2ch did carry that kind of information. But that’s copy and paste information copied from other websites. It’s the mainstream media which is spreading information that 2ch has that kind of information. Those who were not interested in such information have suddenly become interested in 2ch through newspaper coverage. Why don’t those media criticize themselves?

Are you saying you have no responsibility because other websites have the same information.

Well, let me ask you a question. Is there any evidence that the Internet has led to an increase in crimes? I’ve never seen any such evidence. The Internet is just a tool and all tools have side effects. Look at cars. Do you blame car makers when accidents are caused by speeding? I have my own logic to justify what I’m doing. People can submit information freely on the Internet. Anti-Internet people are just afraid of the unknown potential of the Internet which has a short history.

Perhaps, one reason for the fear is not the “unknown,” as you cal it, but the anonymity of the information. Why don’t make your users post messages using their real names?

I disagree. Even Social Network Services which have greater transparency have trouble and contain inappropriate information. It totally depends on users when dealing with inappropriate information. Those who cannot make judgments by themselves or don’t like 2ch should not use it.

What do you think about the information filter for minors

I support information filtering measures for kids because they are not capable of making proper judgments on information they get from the Internet. If I had a kid, I would give him/her a mobile phone without an Internet connection function. I think the issue has to be debated nationwide.

You’ve been ignoring lawsuits against you for defamation for years, and you don’t pay compensation that courts have ordered you to make.

Yes, that’s correct. I’ve received more than 100 lawsuits so far. It’s time consuming, but recently, I’ve been working on about 30 legal cases. I’m seeing how it goes. The reason why I don’t pay compensation is that I think I am not responsible for what others post. If I were posting death threats or whatever, then I must pay. But I’m just a manager of 2ch. I don’t feel guilty at all.

Why don’t you make a system to check inappropriate messages?

It’s difficult even for legal professionals to distinguish between legal and illegal content. If we were to delete messages, 2ch would cease to be a forum where people can freely post. Unless there is a court order, we will not delete any messages.

Have you ever thought of closing 2ch?

Never. That’s because we currently monopolize this sort of business in Japan.

Your income is reported to be around 100 million yen acquired from online ads and book sales.

Yes, that’s about right.

What do your parents think of your business and all the flak?

My father is an ex-tax officer. But we have never talked about our businesses to each other. When I go home sometimes, he just says to me: “Go ahead with what you’re doing.” (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)

  • 0

    Scrote

    I'm surprised he can simply ignore all the lawsuits he has lost. Is there no way to enforce compensation payments in Japan?

  • 0

    tkoind2

    I think it is unfair to blame 2ch. It is an open forum and their model is not to prohibit speech. As such I think that people using the site must be aware of those conditions and decide to visit or not.

    Blaming sites like 2CH is just a way for Japan to ignore the real reasons people go nuts and kill in Japan. And the blame for those issues rests firmly upon failures within Japanese society as a whole. The alienation, overwork and stressed life style and lonely lives that people live here are driving them to these crimes. Japan needs to address the causes, not look for scapegoats.

  • 0

    timtak

    I think that they find it difficult to trace his income. He does not have money in his bank account and the company of which he is a CEO claims not to pay him a salary. If he does not recieve a salary, presumably he does not pay income tax either.

  • 0

    TPOJ

    This is, quite literally, blaming the messenger for the message.

    I have no idea how anyone can ethically claim this guy has any responsibility. It's an open forum. Are they seriously suggesting the website has some responsibility for the guy that went nuts and stabbed people? Hell, why not blame the company that made the car he drove?

    I know scapegoating is a natural impulse, but don't these people THINK at all?

  • 0

    BillOreilly

    Folks, I`m all in favor of free speech and freedom of expression, but people preaching hatred and publishing methods of how to kill yourself and others must be stopped.

    How far should the government intervene in these topics? There is irresponsible sites like 2channel and at the other end of the spectrum there are sites operating from Japan with petty moderation, that delete almost half of all comments, without any apparent reason.

    There needs to be a happy medium, common sense should prevail.

    I`m looking out for you....

  • 0

    Statistician

    This individual should be severely punished for ignoring the courts. Has he forgotten what it is to be a good Japanese??

  • 0

    kimigano

    people preaching hatred and publishing methods of how to kill yourself and others must be stopped.

    Maybe in Germany, where the government is still fascist enough to restrict free speech. But certainly not in countries with freedom, such as the US and Japan.

    And to think that your handle is BillOreilly.

  • 0

    BillOreilly

    Kimigano- Thnaks for your opinion on my post.

    Looking at Japan and Germany, you will find that they government most against free speech and the right to demonstrate is the Japanese.

    Maybe the truth hurts, but i suggest you look at the facts in a balanced way, without any prejudice or thoughts of national pride.

    Messages telling how to kill others or yourself should be removed, they are not responsible messages to be conveyed.

    My handle is BillOreilly, i am BillOreilly.

    And that`s a wrap.

  • 0

    dennis0bauer

    Kimigano america free speech? ever heard of the patriot act?

    Anyway, Although i agree with most things he is still a moderator and should still moderate his forum, if disturbing messages would be posted.

  • 0

    GeorgeRoper

    BillOreilly,

    You should see the BBC message boards, i called Mr Fourmille next door a git, and was banned. But calling someone a git (which was true), and allowing people to tell how to do criminal things is different. Maybe 2channel should be closed down, for breaking the law.

    If the founder owes money, he should pay the price. I did in 1974 i didn`t pay my hp for my telly, and it was taken away.

    You have to pay the price for things, 2channel will have to sometime.

  • 0

    seansezso

    If I sat in a public park, with a sign on my chest that said "Learn how to make a bomb here for free", should I be arrested even though I have nothing but pen and paper to teach how to make a bomb?

    That is already murky enough, but if you are blaming 2CH for this, then you are not blaming me with the sign, but the owners and operators of that public park.

    So what is next? Blaming God for crime, because if God had not created the world we live in, there could be no crime? No wonder this guy is ignoring the lawsuits! So would God!

  • 0

    conqueror_of_Uranus

    If criminals plot a crime at a bar, is the bar owner responsible for allowing such conversation to take place?

  • 0

    Beelzebub

    This guy got rich creating an electronic forum for people to anonymously post what basically can be described as vicious slanders. The slanders are then spread far and wide. As his punishment he should be locked in a cell and forced to copy them off the screen onto paper, one by one, for as long as it takes. It will probably come to 100 million pages of genkou yoshi.

  • 0

    Good_Jorb

    This guy got rich creating an electronic forum for people to anonymously post what basically can be described as vicious slanders.

    I always thought that 2chan was closer to stromfront, some slander, alot of hate and generally alot of people on the left side of the IQ bell curve expressing an opinion on everything they can possible think of.

    I think it is better they say this stuff on the internet, as opposed to forcing them to go underground and making them even more radical.

  • 0

    sageb1

    2Chan founder should pay more taxes!

  • 0

    bushlover

    Another Similie: A guy decides to run over some people because he's frustrated about some petty thing. He's driving a Toyota at the time he kills the people. Is Toyota responsible? It sounds like it from this moronic interviewer's point of view.

  • 0

    Arudou Debito

    Iove the section where he says, "Unless there is a court order, we will not delete any messages."

    That's a lie. He's had a court order since January 2006 to delete the posts on me judged by a court to be libelous. More than two and a half years later, they're still there...! And with copy-pastes the number just keeps rising.

    I don't think this guy realizes that sooner or later, there's going to be legislation passed that will ultimately deprive the Internet of the privacy he allows his BBS to so wantonly abuse. More on 2ch on my blog tomorrow. Arudou Debito in San Francisco

  • 0

    Arudou Debito

    Oops, referential links didn't come out, so let me repost them here:

    January 2006 court order: http://www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html

    The libelous quotes are still on 2ch: http://www.google.com/search?q=2ch+イラク アルドウィンクル&num=100&hl=en&safe=off&client=safari&rls=en&filter=0

    Impending Internet legislation: http://www.debito.org/?p=1376

    Sorry. Preview button doesn't seem to be working. Debito

  • 0

    cwhite

    well, if 2ch ain't doing it someone else will outside of the jurisdiction of Japan. Their are so many look alike mirrored versions of 2ch it's often hard to tell which is linked to which.

  • 0

    NeoJamal

    If he thinks those court orders infringe the natural rights for media in a free and democratic society, why doesn't he submit a Bill to Diet that would give BBS boards absolute privilege from defamation suits?

  • 0

    NeoJamal

    If he thinks those court orders infringe the natural rights for media in a free and democratic society, why doesn't he submit a Bill to Diet that would give BBS boards absolute privilege from defamation suits? How about making appearance at free speech initiatives or actively advocate it through any other way? he ought to do it, otherwise he'll just appear to be copping out of uncontroversial obligations.

  • 0

    serindipity

    As much as I agree to freedom of speech there has to be guidelines set for this site and many others like it. It is unfortunate, but true, that sites like this do spread decent and there are many illegal activities run through the forums. I think it's very interesting that that the cops were able to pin this guy for selling drugs through this site, but are unable to detect or remove any form of violent or suicidal posts. Not only does this site tell people how to kill themselves and mass suicides have been organized through the site, but there have also been people kill themselves for being alienated on the site.

    What did people do before the internet?

  • 0

    seansezso

    If he thinks those court orders infringe the natural rights for media in a free and democratic society, why doesn't he submit a Bill to Diet that would give BBS boards absolute privilege from defamation suits?

    If his goal was to produce a chamber wide ROTFLMAO among the Japanese Diet, I suppose that would be about the best way to try and accomplish it. No way those snobs are going to take him seriously.

  • 0

    DeepAir65

    I have my own logic to justify what I’m doing

    This one cracked me up. So if I am stopped for speeding in my ferrari (I wish!!) I could come up with this defense?

    Sooner or later this being Japan I suspect there could be a murder suicide and no prizes for guessing which side of the coin he will be. And they will use their own logic to justify it - "he made my life miserable"

  • 0

    nisegaijin

    Nothing but respect for that guy! ignoring law suits, hahaha, he has some cohones!

  • 0

    DirtyOldJoe

    2ch breeds the twisted, if he wants to do good in the internet, he should start a website promoting metal health.

  • 0

    Quirinus3

    Channel 2 guy is iresponsible though, and some form of moderation to prevent slander, and criminal acts for example.

    I sympathise with those who have been censored for no apparent reason, and also those who have been victims of attack through forums.

    Owners of forums should realise that tactics to rfemove a certain point of view in an unfair and biased manner, often leads to their forums being blitzes by large amounts of people, until the forums are ruined for everyone else.

    I ask all forums to moderate with responsibilty, and a humble approach is always the best. Channel 2 founder should be ashamed of himself.

  • 0

    TheNewZen

    Quirinus3.

    I started as a mod way back in the BBS days, back than the WWW did not even exist. Since than I have owned many forums and never had a major problem as I followed the rules laid down some 40yrs ago.

    Yeah, needed to prune the odd poster, and they never got back online under a new ID.

  • 0

    Quirinus3

    TheNewZen; I post on may forums, i don`t stay on one for long periods of time usually, unless it is to do with my favourite British football team.

    If moderators are overzealous, and people have posts edited or moderated for silly reasons they will leave and ultimatley everyone loses.

    Same thing if moderators don`t remove inflammatory or similar material. A happy medium is needed, posters should be respected for their free speech, and protected against slander and threats.

    Moderator: Please stay on topic. The subject is 2 Channel.

  • 0

    Quirinus3

    If a webite like channel 2 breaks the law, then close it, simple as that really.

  • 0

    burikko

    I had posted same comments on JT and 2 Channel or Yahoo Japan BBS several times. Only JT had deleted my comments, sometimes partly. I considered and got answer, 2Channel and Yahoo admit aggressive comments also.

  • 0

    faulkmore

    Currently anyone can put together a news web site with forums within about 1-2 days. Just use Joomla or wordpress. Different forums have different levels of intervention. With every single web site having forums, it's hard to take what's written on them seriously. Legislating them is impossible. Don't bother. Lighten up. 2channels style is like craiglists list. Hands off. Personally prefer that approach.

    With every site having a forum, the forum trolls will have lots more oppurtunity to get flamed and then throw a childish hissy fit about it. Hey if there is no monetary penalty why should anyone, especially the courts, care.

    It's like dealing with divorce cases. Pity the guy in the middle that gets flak from both sides. Best to just avoid the drama queen's pissing and moaning moments and keep those cases short or not take them at all.

  • 0

    mojibake

    Hiroyuki is a decent guy, a maverick with principles that revolve around free speech. The kind most of you self-assured gaijin would love to slap backs with in a bar.

    Some of the losers that hang out on 2ch, on the other hand, are a different story. Witness the whole WaiWai fiasco and the Mainichi's beyond-spineless response. Or the scheme to get the Yamanote Halloween Train partiers arrested (anybody taking bets for 2008?).

    The moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of an ignorant, xenophobic, underemployed MOB, especially when dissenting voices are few and far between because most of us can't post in 2ch-ese.

  • 0

    jbro888

    I cant believe people are actually putting the blame on this guy. Is everyone saying that if he didnt have a board to post to that he wouldnt commit the crime? Its irrelevant that he posted this stuff on 2chan

  • 0

    nonchalant

    On the surface of the matter, I don't think this person -- or his company -- is responsible for the information posted on the forums run by the service. It sounds as if there are mechanisms in place for deleting inappropriate content and cooperating with authorities when warranted (although to me, his statements above sound a little too eager to cooperate). What he really needs is some PR savvy to sell what it is he's doing. I don't care for the way the journalist framed the questions (I think it's perfectly clear what the journalist (or his handler) thought), but Mr. Nishimura could have done a much better job of presenting what is still a fairly new thing -- and therefore a wee bit scary -- to many people.

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