Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Amazon Japan in child porn investigation

March 2015

Amazon Japan is under investigation by authorities in Japan who suspect that it may have allowed child pornography to be sold on its Japanese website.

Police raided Amazon facilities this January on suspicion that its website may have been used by sellers to trade illegal pornographic goods such as magazines, books and DVDs featuring under-aged girls. Amazon rules prohibit the sale of such materials, however a Japanese organization claims it had warned the company about such sales in 2009.

The issue is not about Amazon selling pornography itself, it’s about third-party vendors who showcase the porn on Amazon’s site.
Amazon’s critics say the net result is basically the same and that the company is facilitating the sexual exploitation of children.

Amazon Japan issued the following statement: “We take this investigation seriously and we are cooperating fully with the authorities. We don’t permit illegal items on our site, and we have systems and processes designed to prevent and remove illegal items from being listed. We are committed to enforcing our policies and the law for items listed on our site.”

Japan has traditionally taken a very permissive attitude to pornography compared with other advanced countries, though it has recently begun to crack down on child pornography, banning simple possession last year (with a one-year grace period that will soon expire). However, selling child pornography is illegal and has been since 1999.

According to press reports, last summer the police found photo books on Amazon Japan featuring fully nude pictures of under-age girls. They opened a full investigation and, in September, arrested two bookshop owners for violating the child pornography laws and, later, 10 other vendors in Japan who had also broken the law.

Last year, the police searched also an Amazon distribution centre, and in January this year, police reportedly searched Amazon Japan’s headquarters in Tokyo as well as a second distribution centre.

Media reports cite unnamed police sources as saying they suspect that Amazon was aware that vendors dealing in illegal child pornography had been selling their products on the website, but chose to ignore the fact despite the company’s guidelines clearly stating that illegal products are not allowed to be sold there.

If these suspicions prove to be true, Amazon Japan executives could be charged with aiding in the sale of child pornography, severely denting the company’s reputation in Japan.

Asia | corporate reputation

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