Oh my, where do I even start?
Early this year, you remember, there was the dispute between the Left Behind Parents (parents, mostly fathers, of children who were abducted by the divorced spouse to Japan). My site became host to some back-and-forth between two factions of the larger group. One wants to put pressure on the State Department to get Japan to sign the Hague Treaty on child abductions, and to return the children who have already been abducted, to whoever is the true custodial parent. The other says they don’t want this approach.
When I say “faction” here, I realize now that I am being generous to one of the two sides, who now seems to have been someone who was shunted out of a leadership position and is still sore about that. And his couple associates.
Not satisfied with each “side” having their say, several months afterward one of these people decided to comb the thread entries to find anything that could be twisted in a way to incriminate an aspiring lawyer as having said “something bad”, and sharing that with a member of that student’s law school administration.
As that became an issue, I did something that I normally do not do, and that is remove the content from the live site. Removal of something that somebody has already said seems a bit silly, because it is like unringing a bell, or trying to get the toothpaste back in the tube.
Some number of weeks after that little project, the same, combing, individual came back to the thread and looked for the material—apparently so that they could send it to yet another law-related entity and try to stir up some trouble. Only, this time, it was not on the live site.
This apparently enraged the deed-doer, because I then got a battery of harassing e-mails about how I was somehow not being “fair” to him and his ilk, because I had allowed the subsequent edit, and removed the material that this character was misrepresenting in the first place.
Oh, if they were all so easy like that.
If you are a routine reader, you might remember a certain reporter who was, for some reason, not let back into Japan late last year. It was a bit of an internet sensation in the Japan-side expat community who reads the handful of popular blogs related to expats. I came to the story late, and, to me, it seemed like there were missing pieces to it. I also wondered about the heap of abuse that was being, er, heaped on the reporter. The reporter had made very strong assertions about Japan and its immigration, yet did not seem to be able to produce the one thing that would have calmed waters, and that is a special stamp within a passport that shows that you have submitted an application. (Not the actual visa stamp, but the ink stamp that the office puts on a passport page when the application is taken.)
People who know, (and I know, because I lived there, too,) know that your submitted visa application means that you have this inked stamp in your passport. (At least, up to the new immigration act of July 9, 2012, and you can tell me about after.)
So there was some confusion, and, for some reason, certain individuals played up the “anti” side with such emotion and conviction, that it really did seem in January that there was some personal history going on with all that.
When I read through my commentary, it seems clear to me, at least, that I was taking an objective look at the thing. But to some, I had become a “friend” of the reporter, and therefore, by their logic, a target for a slander more apt to, lets say, a recent Penn State football coach. They decided that this was “OK” just to do, and post it on the internet.
The reporter himself feels that some of my entries were not as favorable to him, and so, he has issues with my view, too. He also writes to tell me that, why, someone said this nasty thing about me on that site referenced above. But I knew that already. He adds that he suspects the author is one of the two Japan-side reporters/writers/voice actors that it’s pretty clear he’s having feuds with. I am still trying to figure out how someone has the brass to make such a bold statement and then just put it out on the internet.
Oh, and by the way, the request comes that I should remove certain “articles” because that reporter says they are factually inaccurate, even though I can’t find where anything about what was written was put forth as anything but what my impressions were at the time. Certainly, not stated as if it were fact, or even “oh, a source” said it was fact, like the above-mentioned bold statement.
There are one or two more anecdotes, involving the other little cliques that get their attention by hook or by crook. I don’t want to bore you.
One thing is for certain: Japan has a lot of internet connections. And they share them with some foreigners in their country. Foreigners with a lot of time on their hands. I noticed this back in 2009, 2010. Not a lot has changed in two years, even though the internet and technology does.
I’ve been following the docket of a case in Philadelphia called Arena v. Doe, 12-cv-0778, which involved internet harassment of an ex-JET in Osaka. At the center of the case are mysterious websites that pop up out of nowhere, authored by people in shadows, who said terrible things about two individuals. (Copyright infringement is also implicated.) From the patterns I see with foreigners who write from Japan, about other foreigners in Japan, it seems pretty clear to me that when discovery is done, “Doe” is going to be someone connected to Japan.
The point is: inevitably the petty internet bickering moves to a next level. For a few websites around May or June, that seemed to have happened—although I’ve been told, no, that’s just coincidence. (I never got a good story on that.)
I guess my point is: why risk it? Not so much as a threat, but as a warning.
More comes across in the internet than you realize, and you never know how close or far your target really is. Or what they are using their keyboard for.
[Update 9/8/12: I did get an anonymous comment on these topics. The person guessed the right reporter, but they misunderstood that taking down entries actually makes a Google search worse. The top entries, from a Japan-side blogger, are more strident. I was generally regarded as more level-handed; and, as I mentioned, took a certain amount of flak for being objective.
On the second topic, I think the poster is guessing. They read the original complaint, but doesn’t realize that the “Doe” would have to be identified as someone based in the state. (Otherwise, by federal rules, the attorney would have to file in the district where the defendant resides, unless he can show that the web attack was directed at Pennsylvania.) When I last conversed with the lead plaintiff, several months ago, I got the impression that the matter wasn’t just to get rid of offensive material, but to find out who the perpetrator was.]
[Update 9/11/12: Comments via Tor don’t get to appear, but are catalogued. I can only re-emphasize that I was told that the claim that John Doe was Philadelphia-based was put there for the simple fact that the parties don’t yet know who the person was. In the weeks before, the concern was that it was someone in Osaka. The material that was deleted goes hardly at all to anti-Korean but more towards whether the main plaintiff was embarrassing the JET Programme over the internet. The commentor may be right that the “goal” of the litigation was actually to scrub the internet of public copies of the blog entry. It may be that the information provided Blogger–a Google subsidiary–was off a Tor-anonymized IP. Therefore, there is no quick way for Google to honor the discovery.]