Lawmaker loses appeal, must pay damages for 'liking' defamatory posts

Japan's Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a lawmaker who was ordered to pay damages to a journalist. The Diet member repeatedly "liked" online posts slandering the journalist.

Ito Shiori filed the suit against Sugita Mio, a lawmaker of the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Ito said Sugita repeatedly "liked" Twitter posts slandering her in 2018. She argued this caused the defamatory tweets to spread to Sugita's numerous followers.

Ito has become one of the symbols of Japan's "Me too" movement after publicly accusing another journalist of raping her.

The Tokyo District Court first dismissed Ito's claim, saying clicking "like" is an act of expression that can have multiple meanings and is not illegal unless there are extraordinary circumstances. Ito appealed the ruling.

The Tokyo High Court then overturned the lower court decision and ordered Sugita to pay 550,000 yen, or about 3,700 dollars, to Ito. The high court said Sugita had repeatedly criticized Ito, and it was acknowledged the lawmaker had intended to hurt the journalist's reputation by clicking "like." The court also noted that the lawmaker's Twitter account had 110,000 followers and her act had a significant impact.

Sugita appealed the second court decision but it was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Sugita has repeatedly made controversial comments. Japanese legal authorities determined last year that she violated human rights by posting discriminatory remarks about Korean residents of Japan.

She made the online posts in 2016 after attending a UN conference on the elimination of discrimination against women. Sugita described some participants wearing ethnic Korean or Ainu clothing as "middle-aged women cosplayers." She also wrote that their existence is "a shame for Japan."

In 2018, Sugita wrote in a magazine article that people from the LGBTQ community were "unproductive" because they can't have children.