Communications Ministry Asks Social Media Companies to Take Response to Fake Posts on Noto Peninsula Earthquake

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Firefighters engaged in search and rescue operation in the city of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Friday, calling over to check whether anyone is left trapped under the collapsed building.

In response to the spread of disinformation about the Noto Peninsula Earthquake online, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has requested social media companies to take action on false information, with an eye on deleting inappropriate content.

“Fake information and misinformation on social media may prevent swift and smooth rescue operations and could lead to crime,” communications minister Takeaki Matsumoto told a meeting of the ministry’s emergency disaster response headquarters on Friday.

Regarding content considered particularly malicious, Matsumoto instructed officials to respond in cooperation with the National Police Agency.

According to the communications ministry, requests were written to X Corp., which operates the service formerly known as Twitter; Meta, formerly known as Facebook; Google LLC; and LY Corp. as of Tuesday.

The ministry urged the companies to take measures voluntarily, as it is difficult for the government to directly ask them to delete posts, based on concerns for freedom of speech.

Many false information or misinformation concerning the Noto earthquake have been posted online, such as rescue requests for nonexistent addresses and past tsunami footage taken and claimed to be from Noto.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters Friday that the government, through the communications ministry, had requested social media companies to “take responses in line with terms of service, including deletion of information that is clearly different from facts or truth and is feared to invoke confusion in society.”

“We are aware of opinions that [such posts] are related to incentives where users whose posts have more views and attract followers earn [more] revenue,” Hayashi also said.

In response to the ministry’s request, LY Corp. reportedly has strengthened monitoring of posts to its service, saying it will “delete information that is clearly fake.”