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### Exploring Legal Gaps and “Kawaii” Lifestyle Through a Japanese AI Child Movie

Activists warn of a link between depictions of pornography involving children and young people bein…

Fujiko Yamada, the founder of the Child Maltreatment Center in Kanagawa Prefecture 25 years ago, has criticized Japanese politicians for neglecting the welfare of the country’s children. She issued a warning regarding the link between the portrayal of sexual activities involving minors and the exploitation of young individuals in the sex industry.

In an interview with This Week in Asia, Yamada highlighted that while child sexual exploitation is illegal in Japan, the legislation only pertains to photographs and videos of actual individuals and does not encompass drawings or AI-generated content, irrespective of their realism.

Reported by Yomiuri, the impact of over 3,000 images depicting the sexual abuse of infants was so profound that they were unmistakably realistic. An Osaka-based technology company was reportedly uploading such content on a monthly basis. With a website accessible globally, the company boasts 100,000 registered users and attracts over 2 million visits per month.

This company is just one among many involved in the creation and distribution of AI-generated child pornography.

An unnamed company representative stated that they believe there are no legal ramifications associated with these images. The company intends to continue providing the images due to their popularity, and any new regulations could potentially disrupt their operations.

Anime characters are prominently featured on billboards in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. Image: Stock

Advocates have long advocated for the prohibition of manga and anime depicting children in a sexually suggestive manner. However, the Japanese government only outlawed the possession of child pornography in 2014, without extending the ban to images of children.

The influential Japanese graphic and animation industry successfully argued that since these images were mere illustrations, no actual “victims” existed, and therefore, no criminal offense was committed. Musicians, authors, and publishers contended that imposing restrictions on their work would violate their constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression.

Yamada emphasized the necessity for action to combat AI-generated child pornography, stressing the importance of delineating the boundaries between artistic expression and exploitative content.

She urged for collective action to address sexual abuse in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement.

Morinosuke Kawaguchi, a systems analyst and former professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, acknowledged the ongoing discussions among governments regarding AI legislation. However, he highlighted that Japan’s cultural norms result in different standards, particularly concerning images of children.

Kawaguchi noted that the concept of “kawaii” (cuteness) in Japanese culture, characterized by infantile features and big eyes, influences the depiction of children in anime. He explained that Japan’s historical appreciation for the innocent and adorable contributes to the existing cultural landscape.

While the Western perspective vehemently opposes any form of child sexualization, this viewpoint has not been entirely embraced in Japan. The use of AI technology to create such content further complicates this sensitive issue due to the lack of moral judgment inherent in AI systems.

Yamada stressed the urgency of implementing positive changes swiftly to protect children from the detrimental effects of exposure to explicit content. She highlighted the risks posed by tech-savvy teenagers encountering biologically explicit images online, which could desensitize them to the gravity of such content and potentially normalize involvement in the sex industry.

She called for collaboration among policymakers, child rights advocates, and civil society to address this pressing issue, emphasizing the need for younger generations to drive awareness and action in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

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Last modified: February 24, 2024
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