Asia has embraced the Internet and social media. Japan and South Korea rank among the world’s leaders in technological innovation and Internet penetration. China boasts over 420 million Internet users, and other Asian countries have experienced the widespread acceptance of online technologies. With the rapid ascendency of the Internet and social media, however, Asian countries have sometimes struggled with striking the proper balance between individual rights and the legal regulation of online activities. One prime example of such struggle involves the clash between Japan’s election laws and individual political freedoms.

Although Japan generally subscribes to democratic traditions and the principle of limited Internet restriction, its election law effectively prohibits virtually all online campaigning by candidates, political parties, and voters during its official campaigning period. Japan’s election law demands that all political actors forego the low-cost, speedy, and popular communication, information, and political advocacy tools available on the Internet during the most critical time of an election campaign. The election law also restricts voters from engaging in online grassroots activities and fully participating in the political process. In recent years, an increasing number of actors in the Japanese political process have called for the right to freely express themselves in an online environment during all phases of the election process. Notwithstanding, Japan continues to maintain its ban on Internet electioneering.

Legal considerations and political realities dictate the complete elimination or partial relaxation of Japan’s stringent restrictions on Internet electioneering. In advocating such change, this article analyzes the competing concerns between Japan’s current election laws and individual political freedoms. Additionally, it examines the relevant legal arguments, cultural considerations, and other factors that support the adoption of online campaigning. It also examines how current laws are generally adequate to address the dangers associated with unrestricted online campaigning.

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