A Tokyo court on Thursday ordered ruling party lawmaker Mio Sugita to pay Shiori Ito, a journalist and symbol of Japan's #MeToo movement, 550,000 yen ($3,700) in damages for clicking "like" on several tweets she said defamed her.
The ruling by the Tokyo High Court, which overturned a dismissal of the suit by the Tokyo District Court, marks the first time damages have been awarded for liking a defamatory post online, according to Ito's lawyer.
"(The court) understood my suffering. I want (Sugita) to think about how small actions can hurt people," said Ito, 33, who had sought 2.2 million yen from the lawmaker.
In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Hiroshi Ishii said that Sugita had "used tweets expressing contempt for Ms. Ito to intentionally harm (Ms. Ito's) dignity," given her history of ridiculing and criticizing Ito prior to liking the posts.
The court found that the "acts of contempt" by Sugita, as a House of Representatives member of the Liberal Democratic Party with around 110,000 followers at the time, "exceeded the socially-acceptable limit, and the mental distress caused by it cannot be taken lightly."
Sugita's office said it would examine the details of the ruling before deciding how to respond.
Ito became a symbol of Japan's movement against sexual abuse after going public with a rape accusation against Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a former Washington bureau chief of Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc.
The Supreme Court in July finalized a ruling ordering Yamaguchi, a biographer of assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to pay 3.3 million yen in damages to Ito, recognizing that he had nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her in 2015.
According to the ruling, between June and July 2018, Sugita liked several tweets that defamed Ito, including ones that said she acted as a "honey trap" and had traded sexual favors to advance her career.
The Tokyo District Court had ruled in March that liking a defamatory post could not be considered illegal as the act does not necessarily constitute approval since it could also be for bookmarking and reminder purposes.
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