A government panel agreed Thursday that victims of cyberbullying should have the right to ask website and social media operators as well as internet service providers to disclose names and phone numbers of those who made defamatory posts.
But while the communications ministry panel also called for discussing how to ease conditions for the release of information leading to the identification of anonymous users posting defamatory comments, some members expressed concern that doing so could infringe on their freedom of expression.
The Japanese government has been seeking to bolster measures to counter online abuse particularly after the death last month of a cast member of popular Netflix reality show "Terrace House," who was subjected to a barrage of hateful messages on social media.
Under the current law, people in general must go through multiple court proceedings before they can identify individuals who make hateful posts against them, and many give up. To simplify the process, the ministry set up the panel in April to discuss changes.
As social networking service operators often do not possess the names and addresses of individuals posting defamatory messages, the victims turn to internet service providers for information based on when the abusive posts were made and other details provided by the social media operators.
Many providers, however, have been reluctant to supply such information, saying they do not see clear violations of human rights.
Once phone numbers are revealed, lawyers can refer to telephone companies and identify the individuals making abusive posts.
Calls for legal changes have been growing after Hana Kimura, 22, the reality show cast member, was found dead in a suspected suicide late last month after becoming a target of hateful messages on social media.
The female professional wrestler had posted a picture of herself on Instagram with the words "I'm sorry," shortly before her death was confirmed on May 23.
The ministry received more than 5,000 complaints about online abuse including defamation in fiscal 2019, about a four-fold jump from fiscal 2010. It aims to compile draft legislation by the end of the year.