Commentary: VTubers and legal actions against doxxing, slander, and defamation

As with any community with an online presence, acts of direct attacks against personalities are mostly prevalent, thanks to a handful of ‘obsessive’ and ‘possessive’ fans. And that is more true than ever within the VTuber space, as the large majority of VTubers are wary of exposing their real identity online, as well as being the subject of direct attacks from online users.

In a 2017 study made by the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, about 90% of doxed files included the victim's address,  61% included a phone number, and 53% included an email address. Moreover, 40% of victims' online user names were made public, and the same percentage revealed a victim's IP address.

Doxxing and other forms of online direct attacks against VTubers are alarmingly growing at a steady pace. Just this August, Nijisanji has announced the indefinite hiatus of its talent Axia Krone following an ‘overwhelming’ amount of targeted online slander from users. For multiple occasions, ANYCOLOR has issued multiple warnings over the past few months, warning users who attempt to slander and defame their talents.

It’s not just the talents alone. VTuber agencies–whether big or small–are always putting reminders to fans regarding acts of defamation and slander. And the most common type to deal with is to block them in the process.

But then, it begs the question: Is the VTuber community doing enough to put fans who slander and defame VTubers? And by doing enough, are we talking enough to put them at their right place?

This community’s approach against acts of doxxing and slander has been always the same for the most: deplatforming them and taking them away from the community. But people are more smart than ever, and use alternative accounts or services to continue their slanderous acts.

Let me say this outright: deplatforming someone never works, because they will always find new ways to commit such acts. They can always start a new account, hide within the folds of online forums, and then ‘rinse and repeat’. Such acts like this are the reason why the community should be more aware of their rights to privacy, and know the legal implications of those that violate it.

Recently, the Japanese VTubing community has seen a rare win, as a court order from the Osaka District Court mandated an internet service provider to reveal the person that defamed a particular VTuber.

In a report by The Asahi Shimbun, presiding judge Masatoshi Ishimaru said a woman who posts videos on the internet as a VTuber acts wearing an image of an avatar as if it is a costume. Therefore, libelous statements made against the VTuber also libeled the woman behind it.

A similar case was also made by the Tokyo District Court in March, where it sided with Nijisanji talent Yuzuki Roa following a dispute with former talent Kingyozaka Meiro, with their messages leaked by a controversial ‘tabloid’ VTuber. Moving over to the independent side, Indonesian independent VTuber Minerva Rosaline has also stated that in line with her hiatus, she is also processing legal matters regarding those that have doxxed and slandered her in the past few months.

These are just a few of the many VTubers that are taking proper steps in order to stand up and show entitled fans a taste of their own medicine. But then again, legal talks are very technical and costly for that matter.

But for now, the community can start educating themselves on how they can be legally aware of their VTubing profession. Resources like from law firms Brooks Pierce in the United States and Idealex for Spanish-speaking audiences offer an inside view as to how VTubers and the people behind it can be legally bound, and have privacy at its center.
To wrap this up, I am always reminded of that one statement a VTuber told me: “You–joining my online community–is not a right: it’s a privilege”. In an age where parasocial relationships are perilously brewing to more privacy-invading measures, fans still remain at the core of this problem. Learn where the line starts and ends. Learn our place.