moral panic

This week in not being evil: “loli” spirited away from Google search results

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled absence of programming with a public service annoucement: Super Google has done it again. Not being evil, that is. This has resulted in a suprising lack of results if you happen to ask the wrong question. Like this:

About 62 results about “lolicon”, even though the first page advertises 1.5 million hits or so. Login status, SafeSearch settings, private browsing, etc. do not substantially affect that number, and neither does displaying the “omitted results”. See for yourself. For comparison, Yandex claims around 400,000 answers on that search term, and lets you browse 100 pages of results.

More generally, Google has suddenly stopped providing meaningful results to related search queries (anything that includes “loli”, “lolicon”, the Japanese katakana versions ロリ, ロリコン, and possibly more terms), apparently within the last 24 hours. For example, you cannot find the Japanese Wikipedia page about this subject on Google anymore, unless you look up the unabbreviated, much less used phrase ロリータ・コンプレックス (lolita complex) directly. This has caused a bit of a commotion on my corner of the Japanese Internet, including among people known for their level-headedness, like Nakagawa Yuzuru, associate professor of film studies at the Japan Institute of the Moving Image. And I agree with them that the situation is pretty outrageous.

The first “CG child pornography” arrest: more opportunistic enforcement

Last Thursday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's Youth Development Section announced that it arrested a 52-year old man from Gifu on suspicion of violating the Child Pornography Law, in what it trumpeted as the first “exposure of computer graphics child pornography” nationwide. Initial news reports provided scant details beyond the “CG child porn” headline, fueling speculation that the police were somehow anticipating the current reform bill by cracking down on purely fictional material, namely pornographic 3D models of imaginary character. As later reports revealed, however, the object of the investigation turns out to be of a quite different nature.

The man had been distributing, directly as well as through not particularly shady channels such as Melonbooks, a doujin picture collection called 『聖少女伝説2』 Seishoujo densetsu 2, whose official website, as helpfully pointed out by Yaraon, is preserved on the Internet Archive. You can get a sense of the nature of the material there. As reported by Sankei News, it consists of scanned pictures of young girls from nude photobooks of the 1980s and early 1990s, with slight edits to hair styles, skin colors and poses using some photo editing software, presumably so that the author could pretend that they were “computer-generated” and hence, he believed, legal.

What is child pornography in Japan?

At the end of May, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan and its allies the Komeito and the Japan Restoration Party introduced, yet again, a bill to amend the national Child Pornography Law, citing the need for a further crackdown on the exploitation of children, and for aligning Japan with “global standards” of regulation.

In reality, however, the bill, which is essentially a carbon copy of a previous one submitted in 2009, and which had been scrapped due to the LDP's historic electoral defeat that year, does nothing to further its stated goals. Its main provisions include a ban on “simple possession” of so-called child pornography, and a call for a three-year “inquiry” into the detrimental effects of sexual representations of minors in fiction (anime, manga and games), at the end of which the law would be expanded to include those other materials. Now you be thinking that this isn't so bad, for reasons such as:

  1. “What's wrong with banning possession of child porn? My country does it too! That stuff shouldn't exist! It gets made because there are criminal perverts who buy it! And by the way, if you defend it, you're a filthy pedophile, go kill yourself!”
  2. “So the anime ban isn't really a ban, just an inquiry. I see nothing wrong with that. They won't ban the stuff if they don't come up with a serious argument that it harms real children.”

Both of those viewpoints are based on assumptions that are severely at odds with reality. This post is about the first point; in particular, I would like to explain why, even though it is in fact true that many countries have a ban on the simple possession of what they call “child pornography”, adding such a ban to the Japanese child porn law would very much not align it with “global standards”. I might discuss the second point in a later short note.

Wrapping up the Google story and some more legalese

Some final comments about the “Google dropping lolicon sites from search results” story, and a quick look at related legal problems elsewhere.

As explained in the previous post, Google picked up on a complaint that loliero scanlation site Little White Butterflies was hosting child pornography, and pulled it from search results after filing a report to NCMEC. Pointing out that the material hosted there was clearly not child pornography under US law, the site owners asked on Google's webmaster support forum that the takedown be reviewed. The request has been ignored so far, and it appears that Google has no intention of addressing the site owners' concerns (not even by telling us that they won't overturn the takedown).

Google removes lolicon site from search results

tags:

Loliero doujinshi scanlation site Little White Butterflies observes (link is safe for work but the rest of the site is very much not) that it has been removed from Google search results following a complaint, filed by an unnamed party, that it was hosting child pornography. Google also reported the site to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—a legal obligation for US content providers who become aware of child pornography. The removal can be easily verified by searching for “Little White Butterflies” on Google. The site itself doesn't show up, and a notice at the bottom of the page reads:

In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 7 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at ChillingEffects.org.

An open letter to CNN by Nogami Takeshi

You have probably heard about CNN recently stirring up gratuitous controversy over Rapelay, an issue that should have died down almost a year ago. It is not difficult to imagine that lobby groups within Japan are using Western media to put pressure on Japanese elected officials on related issues. And it might be working: at any rate, that CNN report is getting quite a bit of attention on the Japanese Internet (though not yet on mainstream media). CNN is also getting many hits for that piece of quality reporting, to the point that reporter Kyung Lah got to put up an even finer follow-up article yesterday: a cultural-essentialist explanation of why Japan is so perverted. And there were a couple of silly CNN blog posts on the subject in between, to boot.

Nogami Takeshi, a Japanese mangaka known for such works as Koutetsu no shoujo-tachi (art, Shounen Ace), Serafuku to juusensha (Champion Red Ichigo) or various artworks for the Strike Witches franchise, has written an open letter to CNN in reaction to the latest report. He asked if someone could translate it. I am pleased to oblige. Note that I may not agree with all arguments made in this letter, and I don't really think it's likely to gain many supporters for our viewpoint, but it's an entertaining read.

News from the censorship front

Even with the Tokyo hijitsuzai seishounen reform proposal on hold for a while, the proponents of regulation have been keeping pretty busy. Before turning to the second part of the ongoing clarification post, I'd like to mention a couple of important news tidbits that seem to have received little attention on the English Internet.

Explanation of the hijitsuzai reform proposal (1/3)

As mentioned in the previous post, and despite suspicions of a last-minute reversal, it was decided last Friday that the so-called hijitsuzai seishounen reform proposal introduced a few weeks ago in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly would be given further consideration. It should not go to vote before the summer. It isn't dead yet, though, and since there has been a measure of confusion as to what the proposal was actually about or why it was introduced (including awfully researched pieces surfacing in the Western mainstream media), this is an attempt at clarifying things a little.

I initially set out to write a single tl;dr post on the subject, but it kept getting bulkier as I went along, so that cutting things into writable, and hopefully readable, pieces began to look like a good idea. This will be three-part post: this first part gives an overview of what the proposal is about, what it isn't about, and how it came about. The second part (later this week?) will be a more in-depth look at the major specific changes that the proposal meant to introduce, and the problems they create. The third part should cover the reactions to the proposal and future prospects regarding the whole affair.

Just another truce

So it seems that all hell won't be breaking loose just yet. Thanks to an unprecedented mobilization of the cream of the crop in all things manga (artists, publishers, critics, professors and more), the Minshutō majority in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly announced yesterday that they would push for a postponement of the vote on the “juvenile nonentities” (hijitsuzai seishounen) reform proposal and a reexamination thereof. Their allies are expected to support the motion as well. The Jimintō-Komeitō minority, who introduced the reform bill to begin with, does not seem prepared to back down, but if votes go along party lines (and since public announcements have been made, it is likely that they will), they should be overruled during Friday's debates.

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