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Bushiroad and NIJISANJI Are Taking Online Harassment Seriously

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Bushiroad explores legal options for dealing with online slander, NIJISANJI's parent company establishes harassment countermeasure team

Voice actor and Virtual YouTuber talent agencies in Japan are progressively taking the threat of online harassment seriously. Two companies which have recently made public attempts at fighting harassment are the voice actor agency Hibiki, which is run by Bushiroad, and Ichikara Inc., the company which runs the Virtual YouTuber agency NIJISANJI.

Starting from May, Hibiki began taking measures against libelous statements made online about the voice talent. The crackdown was on false claims that a voice actress was hired because of sexual favors. The company filed a criminal complaint to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on July 6. Meanwhile, Ichikara Inc. announced on Tuesday that it is establishing an "Aggressive Acts and Slander Countermeasure Team," which will offer counselling to victims of harassment and take legal measures against perpetrators of harassment.

According to lawyer Tomonori Inoue, who heads the Bushiroad Group's legal department, the death of wrestler and reality TV star Hana Kimura in May sent shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry. "Because of what happened to Ms. Kimura, there has been a stronger awareness that we have to protect our talent more than ever before," Inoue told legal news website Bengo4.com. Kimura was the target of online harassment on a daily basis; shortly before her death, she made a series of tweets expressing suicidal intent in reaction to the harassment.

On the other hand, taking action against libelous posts brings up a host of potential issues. From the difficulties of separating ordinary criticisms from personal attacks/slander, to the problems with getting the police to take online harassment seriously, Inoue admitted that the actions his team have taken so far did not ultimately stop the harassers entirely. Although his team was able to secure the assistance of the police to deal with death threats due to having the resources to submit extensive paperwork and the experience of dealing with numerous stalking cases in the past, even Bushiroad wasn't able to get the police's help in dealing with online slander.

One of the problems, Inoue claimed, is in the anonymity of the slander. "Even if you call slander a crime, it won't be understood as a crime. There are also people who won't comprehend that it's slander until someone is actually arrested for it."

On May 14, Bushiroad's Hibiki agency announced that it would request the suspension of accounts spreading false rumors about the talent, and that it was in consultation with its legal team and the police. According to Inoue, this resulted in around 90% of the problem accounts getting suspended, but the remaining 10% continued to post slander. On June 11, Hibiki announced that it would take firm legal action, and a criminal complaint was filed to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on July 6. However, even this has not produced a favorable outcome so far.

Bushiroad is currently working with a number of Diet members to set up a system that can properly address online harassment and slander.

Ichikara's "Aggressive Acts and Slander Countermeasure Team" offers a three-step solution to online harassment: a contact form for fans to report abusive behavior they have witnessed, strengthened security and counselling for the talents, and taking legal action such as takedown notices against those who commit aggressive or slanderous acts. According to Ichikara Inc., "We cannot turn a blind eye to aggressive or slanderous acts which make our talent unable to perform their activities with peace of mind."

A number of Virtual YouTubers have recently announced hiatuses or retirements in the wake of harassment, including independent VTuber Kusunoki Sio and hololive's Mano Aloe.

Sources: Bengo4.com, PR Times

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