MONOLITH LAW OFFICE+81-3-6262-3248Weekdays 10:00-18:00 JST



Under What Circumstances Can Impersonation on X (Formerly Twitter) Lead to Account Deletion?


Under What Circumstances Can Impersonation on X (Formerly Twitter) Lead to Account Deletion?

Instances of impersonation on X (formerly Twitter), where someone creates a “fake account” and posts tweets that infringe upon rights, occur frequently. If such fake accounts are left unaddressed, the damage can escalate, so it is crucial to take swift action. In these situations, it is possible to request the removal of the offending content through a provisional injunction.

However, typically, this process involves requesting the deletion of each individual tweet. In other words, it is not generally possible to demand the deletion of the “impersonating account” itself; instead, one can only seek the removal of the specific posts made by the fake account. This is because demanding the deletion of the impersonating account itself would also remove content that does not infringe upon any rights.

Yet, there have been cases where the deletion of an entire account that repeatedly impersonated someone else has been granted. This article will explain under what circumstances the deletion of an entire impersonating account has been permitted.

Case Study: Impersonation of a Prominent Female Entrepreneur on X (Formerly Twitter)

Case of impersonation victimization of a prominent female entrepreneur on Twitter

The victim in this case is a young female entrepreneur. She had gained prominence through her entrepreneurial activities, which were covered by the mass media, and her name and activities were well-known on the internet. On X (formerly Twitter), an impersonation account was created using her real name, address, and a photo that appeared to be found online. Subsequently, the account made eleven false posts claiming that she was the same person as a former adult video actress, and images from the actress’s films were reposted on the timeline.

Generally, on social networks such as X (formerly Twitter), it is possible to request the removal of posts that infringe on rights.

In this case, the impersonated woman, whose personality rights were violated, filed for a provisional injunction against X (formerly Twitter) not just for the removal of individual posts but for the deletion of the entire account.

Provisional Disposition Procedures Against Impersonation and Their Benefits

When requesting the removal of defamatory articles, instead of a “trial (litigation),” one can utilize a procedure known as “provisional disposition.” Provisional disposition is a court procedure that allows for relatively quick decisions or orders by the court, securing a situation similar to having won a trial before the actual trial takes place.

In seeking the removal of defamatory articles through provisional disposition procedures, one must file a “petition for a provisional disposition order for article removal” with the court. The creditor, who would be the plaintiff in a trial, submits a petition clarifying the content of the right to be preserved, the facts of the rights infringement, and the necessity for preservation.

Upon filing a petition for provisional disposition, a procedure similar to oral arguments in a trial, called “examination,” is conducted, where the debtor (in the case of an article removal provisional disposition application, the provider) and the creditor dispute whether a rights infringement has occurred.

If the infringement of rights is recognized, a “security decision” is first made to determine the amount of security deposit the creditor must provide for the issuance of the provisional disposition.

Provisional disposition is, as the name suggests, a temporary measure. There is a possibility that in a subsequent trial, it may be determined that “the article was not illegal.” In such a case, the creditor (plaintiff in the trial) may be required to pay damages for having the article removed. Therefore, the creditor needs to deposit the security deposit, which serves as collateral, before the provisional disposition decision is made. Generally, the amount of the security deposit for article removal is about 300,000 to 500,000 yen. This security deposit is usually refunded to the creditor (plaintiff) after certain procedures if the rights infringement is also recognized in the formal trial.

Once the security deposit is provided, the court issues a provisional disposition order for the removal of the posted article. In practice, once the provisional disposition order for removal is issued, the debtor usually complies with the removal without going through a formal trial, thus achieving the goal of removing the posted article quickly and through a simple procedure.

Related article: Removal of Defamatory Articles: How to Use the Simpler ‘Provisional Disposition’ Instead of a Trial?[ja]

Background of the Case

The woman who fell victim to impersonation did not seek the removal of individual posts or other specific content (for example, header images or profile descriptions) posted on the account in question. Instead, she demanded the deletion of the entire account.

Claims Made by Twitter, Inc. (at the time)

On this matter, Twitter, Inc. (at the time) argued that the woman who had fallen victim to impersonation should specify the exact content and scope of the information that she claims infringes upon her rights and should request the removal of only that information, rather than indiscriminately seeking the deletion of the entire account. This is a natural assertion from the perspective of a social media platform.

As a reason, Twitter, Inc. contended that “if the entire account were to be deleted, not only the information claimed to infringe upon the woman’s rights but also all other information would be removed. Since the victim is seeking removal as an exercise of her right to eliminate interference based on the infringement of her personality rights, the deletion should be limited to the information that is claimed to infringe upon her rights.” Therefore, they argued that there is no legal basis to acknowledge the removal of any other information.

Furthermore, Twitter, Inc. paid attention to the fact that if the entire account were to be deleted, the account holder would no longer be able to post articles using the account in question. In other words, deleting the entire account would amount to preemptively prohibiting all future expressions, regardless of their content, which from the standpoint of the importance of freedom of expression and the significant chilling effect on expressive activities, means that the permissibility of injunctions against expressive activities must be carefully judged. Even if an injunction is to be granted, they argued, its scope should be limited to the minimum necessary.

This argument also aligns with previous thinking and judicial precedents.

Court Decision: Ordered the Deletion of the Entire Account

Court Decision: Ordered the Deletion of the Entire Account

The court first focused on a post stating “A=B Shocking,” which involved a well-known public figure widely recognized on the internet, represented by an equal sign “=” linked to a different name “B” (in this case, a former adult video actress). The court considered that readers would interpret this as indicating that the person is the same individual known publicly under the alias “B.” The expression “A=B,” when linked with the name of the former adult video actress, could be understood by the average reader, even when applying ordinary attention and interpretation, as indicating a false fact that the person is the former adult video actress.

Furthermore, the court pointed out that the account in question listed a woman’s address in the address field, included a blog URL in the URL field, and reproduced a photo from the internet that introduced the woman by name and image in the header image. The content of the posts consisted of 12 tweets, with the first tweet reproducing a photo posted by the woman on her blog, and the subsequent 11 tweets all reproducing images from adult videos of the former adult video actress, with comments such as “I was shocked to hear A-san was a former adult video actress lol,” “A is too cute. It’s like B, the former adult video actress, and I’ve been watching those videos a lot lately haha,” and “A-san must have really angered someone to have a fake account created and adult video photos posted.”

The court then determined that the account was set up and expressed in such a way as to deceive viewers into believing that the woman had created the account herself, giving the false impression that she was a former adult video actress and had posted the adult video images herself. The court found that the entire account, in all its aspects, including the account name, profile description, header image, and posts, was designed solely to infringe on the woman’s personal rights and constituted a clear act of illegality.

The court stated:

“In cases where the entire account is clearly aimed at illegal activities and causes significant rights violations, it is truly unavoidable to delete the entire account for the sake of rights remediation, and it is appropriate to exceptionally allow for the deletion of the entire account. The deletion of such an account, which is solely intended for illegal activities and impersonation, does not prevent the account holder from establishing another legitimate Twitter account.”

Saitama District Court, October 3, 2017 (Heisei 29) Decision

Based on this reasoning, the court ordered Twitter, Inc. (at the time) to delete the impersonation account in its entirety without requiring a bond.

Related article: What Crimes Can Occur on Twitter? Explaining Past Incidents and Offenses[ja]

Conclusion: Consult with Experts on Impersonation on Social Media

This case recognized that the impersonation account was clearly committing an illegal act with the sole purpose of infringing upon the victim’s personality rights, and exceptionally, the deletion of the entire account was permitted. This decision was the first to order the deletion of an account and can be considered a groundbreaking example that demonstrated one of the possible responses to impersonation accounts.

For issues related to impersonation on social media, we recommend consulting with attorneys who have a wealth of experience in handling defamation on social media.

Guidance on Measures by Our Firm

Monolith Law Office is a law firm with extensive experience in both IT, particularly the internet, and legal matters. In recent years, reputational damage and defamation spread online have caused serious harm as a “digital tattoo.” Our firm provides solutions to combat these “digital tattoos.” Please refer to the article below for more details.

Areas of practice at Monolith Law Office: Digital Tattoo[ja]

Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

The Editor in Chief: Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

An expert in IT-related legal affairs in Japan who established MONOLITH LAW OFFICE and serves as its managing attorney. Formerly an IT engineer, he has been involved in the management of IT companies. Served as legal counsel to more than 100 companies, ranging from top-tier organizations to seed-stage Startups.

Return to Top