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Local gov’t leaders in Japan question use of social media

  • May 16, 2022
  • , Jiji Press , 3:49 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, May 16 (Jiji Press)–Leaders of some local governments in Japan have questioned the use of social media, seen as very effective for sending out information but with the potential to attract false accusations from anonymous users.

“I’ve been worried about posts that were false or distorted. I can’t do this anymore,” Kobe Mayor Kizo Hisamoto said in a Twitter post on April 27.

He added that “the situation would become worse” if free speech advocate Elon Musk acquires Twitter Inc. He then closed his account.

Hisamoto had some 30,000 Twitter followers. At a press conference Wednesday, he said: “There were disadvantages that outpaced the benefits. It was very hard to choose, but I decided to stop using.”

At the same time, he pledged to consider other ways to hear opinions from residents.

His decision received a sympathetic response from other local government leaders.

“People say what they want on social media. I understand Hisamoto’s decision,” Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura told a news conference Thursday.

But Yoshimura, who has some 1.27 million Twitter followers, plans to continue using social media. It is an “effective way to disseminate thoughts as a politician,” he said.

Chiba Governor Toshihito Kumagai, with some 280,000 Twitter followers, said, “It is true I feel stress from slanders. User morality is very important.”

Kumamoto Mayor Kazufumi Onishi, who has 170,000 Twitter followers, recently unveiled his own guidelines for social media use.

These say that social media users “should use politer expressions than at in-person meetings because they are anonymous.” In the guidelines, he warned, “I may delete comments or block (users) without notice.”

Shinichi Yamaguchi, associate professor at International University of Japan and an expert on social media issues, said users should “distinguish criticism from slanderous comments, even if they target public figures.”

He proposed functions that mute extreme posts. “Everybody has the right to use social media,” he said.

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