Japan Bans Twitter for Upcoming Election

Filed as News on July 23, 2009 12:19 am

The Mainichi Daily News is reporting that Japan’s cabinet has placed a ban on candidates using Twitter for the country’s upcoming House of Representatives election campaign.

Citing the Public Offices Election Law, the government has deemed Twitter content to fall under the “literature and images” clause within the law.

In stark contrast, American President Barack Obama (or his office) speaks to over 1.7 million followers on a regular basic via Twitter.

While Japan is a constitutional monarchy and the U.S. is constitutional republic, both nations hold open and free elections. Which leads me to this question:

When it comes to elections in democratic nations, do you think Twitter helps or hurts the process?

Transparency is often a good thing – especially in politics – but I’m sure someone could make the case against. Any takers?

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  1. By David posted on July 23, 2009 at 1:15 am
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    Interesting post. I think, though, that the point is not that Twitter is specifically banned, but that Japan is generally not as open about its political process. Its election campaigns are known to be short and restricted, and candidates have to work harder to connect with individuals. On the other hand, they are less susceptible to the mudslinging and smear campaigns so common in the US and elsewhere.

    I think that it would be great first step for Japan to open its “literature and images” restrictions, which would add much more transparency to the political process. Twitter, in my opinion, is more geared toward those with a special interest in politics, beyond a typical individual. While I think Twitter is a useful communication tool, it doesn’t generally speak to the common populace reached by more traditional media. Consequently, I’d place its importance behind that of other media outlets.

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  2. By Lauren McMullen posted on July 23, 2009 at 2:25 am
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    Twitter is all about developing a relationship and creating open dialog between participants. It gives everyone a voice even those who do not have any power. In my opinion that can only help in the democratic process!

    The only reason Twitter might not speak to the common populace is they have not discovered it yet but that is quickly changing. Demographics show the fastest growing segment of Twitter users is the 22-35 year olds.

    Traditional media is very often biased toward one side or the other and I think Twitter will go a long way toward leveling the playing field. The only reason the Japanese government would have for banning Twitter is they don’t like what they know they will hear.

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  3. By Tinh posted on July 23, 2009 at 8:25 am
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    Another China? I think it is not effective and not democratic with Japanese citizens, they have more ways to share rather than Twitter as Facebook is real time too

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  4. By Make money And blogging tips posted on July 23, 2009 at 12:41 pm
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    wow twitter become more powerful now

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  5. By Paul Papadimitriou posted on July 23, 2009 at 12:56 pm
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    Twitter is, after all, a blog, and it is therefore covered by the antiquated law called the Public Offices Election Act.

    The Act, written in a time of pamphlets and posters, provides that documents and imagery cannot be used for campaigning. It covers both politicians and every resident of the country.

    I think it’s time to revoke that piece of legislation, for it is unmanageable.

    I’ve written a little piece getting into a little bit of more detail here:

    http://jpnnxt.com/twitter-social-media-and-japan-elections

    Cheers.

    Reply

  6. By Mark Pack posted on July 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm
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    Hard to come up with a justification, other than banning Twitter is consistent with the bans on other internet services (such as updating blogs). Mind you, the conclusion I’d draw from that is the same as Paul above – the whole law should be changed.

    Last year there were some signs that people were willing to break the law and the police weren’t willing to enforce it – see http://www.libdemvoice.org/japan-elections-ban-twitter-15713.html – so perhaps popular pressure and actions will result in a de facto change in the law anyway.

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  7. By mahasti posted on August 9, 2009 at 1:19 am
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    The medium is the message: Twitter is a space for a free exchange of ideas and information. All esle is a firewall. Governments that are by the people for the people don’t have any use for firewalls. Others do. Cp. Obama vs Ahmadinejad. Case closed.

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