By Cory Gaskins
On November 19, the director of a small Shibuya company did not yet know that “the walls have ears,” even in cyberspace. The 25-year-old president showed a questionable sense of judgment when he posted a video clip on Youtube, entitled “Punishment for tardiness in our company.” He even posted the link on his blog, leaving it open for the world to see that in his company, tardy people are punished by being forced to read aloud an apology letter at the station. The video clip showed an employee publicly reading his apology, explaining why he was late, and pledging to buy three more alarm clocks. Just six days after posting the video, the company received unwanted attention when Internet news outlets reported that the blog had been bombarded with over 500 negative comments. Unbeknownst to the company, the clip had been uploaded to Nico Nico Douga—Japan’s own version of Youtube—where it had received over 60 thousand views. It didn’t help that he had also posted a blog entry a few days prior with the request, “please let me know if anyone knows of a fun punishment for tardiness.”
The director had clearly failed to realize that hundreds of viewers found not only the ‘punishment’ inappropriate, but to film and then post the humiliating video for the eyes of millions in the world to see was completely abhorrent. Viewers also felt this was a gross case of ‘Power Harassment’—similar to sexual harassment, power harassment is an issue that has recently come to the forefront of media attention. Cases often involve bosses who wrongfully use their authority to ‘power harass’ employers. Also known as PowaHara for short.
The outraged public’s wrath was so immense that reportedly, the director was forced to contact the police after receiving an unending stream of threatening phone calls. Even the company’s clients received abusive calls, significantly disrupting their business.
Blogs often serve as personal online diaries, but many forget that complete strangers have access to your page. Should your blog become the center of controversy and you delete the entry after the first lot of angry emails, it’s still possible that someone else has saved it on their computer, ready to upload on another site.
And this applies to everyone. In October, the Japanese restaurant chain Saizeriya was forced to reimburse their customers due to the Melanin scare. A Chiba high school student bragged on his blog that he received 4,111 yen by using a fake receipt, although he didn’t really eat in the restaurant. The boy’s school was inundated with angry calls and they were forced to launch an investigation to find the perpetrator. After finding the guilty student, he was handed over to the police.
Likewise, big name companies are not immune either. On August 8, 2006, an employee from Rakuten Investments deleted a negative entry about the company on Wikipedia .. Many investment-related blogs noticed it had been removed, and the Asahi Shimbun reported the incident on the 31st. On the very same day, Rakuten Investments made a public apology, saying that the employee’s action was of a personal nature, and s/he had been dealt with. Because of the swift response, the situation did not get out of hand for Rakuten Investments.
Tokyo TV, a Japanese TV station, also reacted swiftly to its latest faux pas. On December 4, a late night TV show featuring a Japanese pop group, ℃-ute, had a segment where one of the members introduced “great historical figures.” The viewers were stunned when she explained that “Hitler Ojisan” (Uncle Hitler) was famous for his eloquent speeches, which had a relaxing effect, whilst also displaying a cute caricature of Hitler drawn by her. On December 6 alone, there were over 200 blog entries posted with the word “Hitler” on Japan’s popular social networking site Mixi, some of them linking to the problematic Youtube segment. Many condemned the station’s decision to air the taped performance and TV Tokyo was forced to make a public apology, as well as deleting all the Youtube videos.
Everyone slips up from time to time—that’s human nature. The problem now is that the “slip up” can be filmed by anyone who has a phone or a camera, and can be easily posted on the net. If just one person finds it interesting, the link to the page may be sent to their friends, and they may send it on to other friends and so on, further spreading the controversy to a wider audience. In this electronic age when slip-ups can be played over and over again, what is important is to admit one’s own fault, and offer a sincere apology as soon as possible. It is one’s sincerity that will diffuse the net user’s anger when that “embarrassing” clip appears on the browser of a complete stranger.
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