Targeting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to encourage the removal of discriminatory messages


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The International Network against Discrimination on the Internet (INDI) and the Network Against Discrimination and for Research on Human Rights (NDHR) combat cyber discrimination against the Buraku people of Japan by requesting the removal of discriminatory messages from the internet.

Discrimination against the Buraku people can be traced back to the medieval ages when people were often considered impure because of their occupation. Common Buraku occupations such as butchers, tanners, and entertainers, for example, were targets of discrimination because of the social structure and classification of the time. Many of these negative attitudes towards the Buraku people are alive today and are sometimes expressed on the internet.

NDHR and INDI work together to combat online discrimination, with NDHR handling messages found on Japanese Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and INDI coming into play when these messages are found on foreign ISPs.

When Buraku cyber discrimination is found, the first step that NDHR takes is to attempt to directly contact the individual that posted the information to alert them to the nature of their messages. In some cases, the individual simply does not realize that their information is discriminatory against the Buraku people.

Buraku people of Japan find liberation through fighting cyber discrimination by requesting the removal of discriminatory messages from of the internet.  With the help of its sister organization, the Network Against Discrimination and for Research on Human Rights (NDHR), INDI contacts Internet Service Providers (ISP) both in Japan and abroad and requests the removal of discriminatory information about the Buraku people. In such instances, NDHR will inform the individual about the Buraku people and the discrimination they often experience.  People who previously did not understand the plight of the Buraku people will usually feel remorse for their actions and remove their messages themselves. However, some individuals will have knowingly posted the hurtful messages and refuse to remove them. In cases like this, NDHR turns to the ISP itself and alerts it to the type of messages that are being posted. This usually results in the ISP removing the offensive messages.

If discriminatory messages are posted on non-Japanese ISPs, INDI comes into play. INDI finds that it is especially important to monitor discriminatory activity against the Buraku people on foreign ISPs because the existence of these messages means that discrimination is being spread around the world. When Buraku cyber discrimination is found on these ISPs, INDI contacts them in their own language. INDI uses a network of sixty volunteers to translate both the request for removal of discriminatory information and background information on the plight of the Buraku people into the language of the ISP itself. The background information is especially helpful because the people in charge of non-Japanese ISPs typically know little to nothing about the Buraku discrimination that takes place in Japan and so would not be able to recognize it themselves. When contacted, ISPs usually remove the messages in question. However, INDI and NDHR have found that ISPs do not often continue to monitor for offensive messages, even after being contacted.

Fighting cyber discrimination is a daunting task because it is difficult to find every instance of discriminatory messaging and successfully remove it. However, NDHR and INDI feel that it is particularly important to show that discrimination should not be tolerated. By contacting both individuals and ISPs, they are able to both remove discrimination and educate people about the Buraku people. They hope that people will then be able to recognize Buraku discrimination on their own and refrain from posting such messages themselves. They believe that the less discrimination that is viewable on the internet, the less people there will be to see it, remember it, and pass it on.


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

This tactic can be used in many contexts in which discriminatory information exists on the internet. Other organizations who wish to lessen cyber discrimination should pay attention to NDHR and INDI’s two-pronged approach of both contacting the individual who posted the information and the ISP where it appears. However, it is imperative to realize that this activity is extremely labor-intensive. ISPs will likely not monitor for discriminatory messages, so it is up to the organization’s staff to comb through web sites and postings for instances of discrimination. Nor will interventional always be successful. Not all people will be willing to remove their messages. Organizations should be aware of the scope of the problem and their own capacities before attempting to lessen cyber discrimination.