Amazon’s Japan HQ ‘raided’ in child porn investigation
By Julian Ryall, Tokyo
10:08AM GMT 27 Jan 2015
Police in Tokyo have searched the head office of the Japanese arm of Amazon.com and a distribution centre on the outskirts of the city as part of an investigation into the sale of child pornography.
The US-based company said it was “cooperating fully” with the police, who are conducting the highest-profile investigation since the possession of child pornography was finally made illegal in June 2014.
“We take this investigation seriously and we are cooperating fully with the authorities”, the company said in a statement released to local media.
“We don’t permit illegal items on our site and we have systems and processes designed to prevent and remove illegal items from being listed”, it said.
“We are committed to enforcing our policies and the law for items listed on our site”, the company added.
The raid of Amazon’s facilities comes after police arrested 10 dealers in illegal child pornography who had allegedly sold books through the site.
The Sankei newspaper quoted one of the dealers as saying they had tried to sell their “merchandise” through a variety of web sites but had only been able to operate on Amazon.
Japan’s “idol” industry is worth an estimated GBP408 million a year, with a significant proportion of that being spent on illegal images of young children.
Child rights activists welcomed the law passed seven months ago that bans the possession of child pornography – but warned at the time that it contained some significant loopholes.”There is still a lot of work ahead of us”, said Junko Miyamoto, co-representative of the NGO End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT Japan.)
“Japan’s manga and anime industry is wonderful, but it also has a very dark side”, she said. “It is already being exploited by child abusers and this is now an issue of international society.”A recent United Nations report stated that ‘virtual pornography’ involving children should be criminalised as well and I believe that sooner or later it will be”.Children’s rights groups have been campaigning for the ban to cover graphic depictions of children in sexual situations, often accompanied by violence, but the artists, writers and publishers of such manga or anime insist that as they are merely drawings there are no “victims” and hence no crime being perpetrated.They also claim that imposing bans on their work would be an infringement of their freedom of expression, which is protected by the Constitution.
Mrs Miyamoto disputes the suggestion that images that glorify the physical abuse of children are more worthy of protection than a child who falls prey to a paedophile who has been encouraged in his or her fantasies by manga.”For us, it is simple”, she said. “It is more important to prevent more children from falling victim to abusers”. Crimes in Japan linked to child pornography have soared fivefold in the last decade, with at least 600 children falling victim each year to people who make indecent videos or take photos of them. And campaigners still believe that represents the tip of the iceberg.