The Tokyo District Court on Friday ordered Twitter to disclose the mobile phone number of a person who opened a fake account.
A 19-year-old man in Kanagawa Prefecture filed a lawsuit against Twitter demanding disclosure of information about the person who created the account based on the law on liability of internet service providers, insisting it was opened to impersonate him.
Twitter and other social media sites are rife with fake accounts and slanderous posts set up by people who conceal their identities. In some cases, the victims of these attacks have taken social media companies to court seeking information on the perpetrators. An Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry ordinance specifies the extent to which information is subject to disclosure, but it does not clearly say whether mobile phone numbers are included. It is unusual for a court to order a social media company to disclose the mobile phone number of a user.
According to the complaint and other sources, the man discovered the fake account in 2018 when he was a high school student. His name and photo were used without his consent, and the account was used to try to flirt with and make indecent overtures to women. The man sued Twitter in April last year for information, including the name of the account’s creator and the mobile number.
Twitter said it did not have the user’s name or other information, and claimed that mobile phone numbers were not subject to disclosure under the ministry ordinance.
In the verdict, the presiding judge said: “The account content gives a vulgar impression. The plaintiff was teased by other students, and unjustified rumors circulated among parents [of the students].”
“The account was set up to discredit the plaintiff and infringes on his portrait rights,” said the judge, who determined the fake account was illegal.
The judge concluded: “If a [social media] operator does not have the name of creator [of a fake account], as in this case, there is no reason to exclude the mobile phone number from disclosure, which can be used [for the plaintiff] to recover from the damage.”
Twitter declined to comment.
In May, female professional wrestler Hana Kimura, 22, who appeared on popular TV show “Terrace House,” died after being slandered on social media, and the incident was discussed as a social issue.
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry plans to add mobile phone numbers to the list of what can be disclosed to make it easier to identify people who post messages or commit other problematic actions on social media. The ruling may affect the government’s stance.