Kikuchi was mistakenly accused of being one of the murderers due to being a similar age to the criminals (born in 1972) and hailing from the slummy areas of Adachi-ku where the crime happened. According to Smiley himself, the rumors showed up verbatim in a “taboos of the entertainment industry” book, which his tormentors then used to back up their claims. It did not help Kikuchi that he has based his whole comedy career on being a jerk. His own boss describes him as “a suspicious person you’ll never forget once you’ve seen him,” and Wikipedia summarizes his comedic style as “getting laughs by saying mean things with a big smile on his face.” Not exactly a charmer.Now after setting up a new blog with Ameblo earlier last year, Kikuchi enabled comments between January and April, using a system specially designed for celebrity bloggers. All comments appeared immediately on the site but were then subjected to moderation, usually resulting in harmful comments being deleted after 15 minutes. During this time Kikuchi was apparently still inundated with the age-old accusations in the comments section, until he finally suspended blogging in May (it is back up now). Though Ameblo initiated a pre-clearance moderation system in May, Kikuchi has explained that he filed a complaint with the police after he started receiving threats offline and began fearing for his life.
The police then traced back and filed criminal charges against 19 people all throughout Japan ranging from a 17 year old girl to a 45 year old guy. Perhaps maybe because in Japan people can not say what they truly want or criticize others in person due to social pressures, they go crazy when they find an assumed anonymous medium such as the Internet. (Although it is just my gut feeling, it seems that I see a lot of unnecessarily mean comments on Japanese forums which I recall seeing a lot of in the past in the states, while I am starting to see less and less of unnecessarily mean comments with more respectful ones in the U.S. Perhaps it is because after years of receiving and seeing these ugly negative comments people are finally realizing that that is not nice and it is better to be polite and respectful even if you will never meet them in person and they probably won't be able to track you down and physically harm you even if you talk bad about them... I could be wrong though...There is still too much negativity and ignorance out there...(I admit I too have foolishly fell victim to writing negative things in which I highly regret later on...)
Anyways, I do not think there has been any other cases where people have been arrested for merely flaming a person? This certainly would never happen in the U.S. Please let me know if you know of any related cases though.
I do think people who make death threats on the Internet should be arrested. That's just not cool, right? I think if you have a problem with people flaming or trying to defame you publicly, you should just moderate your posts before they go public. And if you get negativity privately, just delete the email, pray to Buddha that that person will realize their foolish ways and better themselves, and forget about it is probably the best action.
The problem with people making death threats on the Internet is that they can be anonymous and you never know if they are telling the truth. There have been several new agencies created to monitor the Internet for these threats after the big incident were one crazy guy ran a truck into some people and then went on a stabbing spree killing 7 people in Tokyo's famous electric town, Akiharaba. He was ranting on online forums that he was going to commit this horrendous killing spree in this exact fashion months prior, but no one took him seriously.
However, what do you do when the Yokozuna gets an anonymous death threat on the net? Do you stop the Sumo tournament for the day? or put everyone who comes in through metal detectors and piss off a few thousand people?
This is certainly not a simple problem to solve.
This is not that first time that Japanese celebrities have had trouble with defamation on their blogs, but is surely the most well known now as the media went crazy about this after people started getting semi-arrested.
Also, this is not just a problem for Japan. The other major incident was when Jin-sil Choi, Korea's top actress was found dead after she committed suicide. The reason was: depression from being flamed on the Internet.
While many people around the globe can just shake off negative criticism like its nothing, most people in countries like Japan and South Korea are EXTREMELY sensitive to what others say about them. Even myself... just living in Japan, I have completely changed changed from a "I don't care what others think! Whatever! I'll do what I want!" typical American to a "I have to focus all of my strength on making sure I do not make a single regret in anything I say or do publicly that could directly or indirectly risk anyone thinking badly about me" typical Japanese.
(Even Linus admits that the reason that not more Japanese people work on the Linux kernel is not because of language barriers but due to culture barriers of most Japanese not being able to put up with the "fairly abrasive and impolite" flaming that goes on in the mailing lists)
This huge culture difference will probably result in drastically different punishment and handling of online flaming in the future...