February 23, 2023

Disinformation Risk Assessment: The Online News Market in Japan

Key Takeaways1/3

Of 33 sites analysed, 17 present a moderate risk of disinforming readers.

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) is proud to release a new report on disinformation risks within Japan’s media market. This report is the result of the research led by GDI with the Institute for the Next Generation of Journalism and Media at Waseda University, from June through September of 2022.

In a rapidly shifting digital landscape, it is critical for media, advertisers and readers alike to understand how they may be exposed to or circulate disinformation, intentionally or not. An independent risk rating for online media is a key tool for brand safety. GDI’s risk-rating framework provides crucial information to policymakers, news websites and civil society, enabling key decision makers to stem the flow of money that incentivises and sustains disinformation. 

The following report presents the findings pertaining to disinformation risks for the media market in Japan, based on a study of 33 news domains.The sample was defined based on the sites’ reach, relevance and the ability to gather complete data for the site.


With a population of about 125 million people and an international reach to billions through its thriving media industry, Japan is not only one of the largest media markets in Asia, but in the entire world. 

In 2021, Japan ranked third, behind only the United States and China in advertising spending and a media content market valuation of about 11.8 trillion Japanese yen (or about 90.8 billion US dollars) in 2020. Historically, Japan has been noted for wide circulation of traditional media, but online competition has seen engagement with print media decline in recent years, making the need for an independent risk rating of its digital landscape all the more urgent. 

Japan’s media market is vast and expanding. Nearly 4 in 5 consumers rely on television as one of the main sources of news, but the country’s top 5 newspapers still have a combined circulation of 16.5 million, and 2,600 magazines are in publication today. While these mediums remain dominant, online media content represents the fastest growing share of the media market.

While Japan’s Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, the country has fallen significantly from its status as the 11th safest country for journalists in 2010 to 71st in 2022, according to Reporters Without Borders. Disinformation has been circulated amid natural disasters such as the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, notable regional elections such as Okinawa in 2018, and more recently during the COVID-19 pandemic. While faith in traditional media remains fairly strong, media market consumers have steadily reported overall declining trust in mass media and political institutions, creating a dangerous opening for adversarial narratives to take root.


The findings for Japan’s news domains in the sample show that 5 out of 33 sites are classified as minimum-risk, 8 as low-risk, 17 as medium-risk, 2 as high-risk, and only 1 fell in the category of maximum disinformation risk.

The overall average score for sites in Japan is 59 out of 100. Most of the high-risk factors in Japanese media come from a lack of transparency in journalistic publishing standards and weak editorial checks and balances. Thus, sampled domains achieved a low average score on our Operations pillar (43) versus a high score on the Content pillar (76). 

The comparatively low score on the Operations front represents a clear opportunity for newsrooms to improve their rank by publishing more information on their editorial and operational policies, funding sources and ownership.

With about 40 percent of sites in our sample presenting minimum to low disinformation risk and only a small number classified as high risk, disinformation risk in Japan’s media market is relatively low compared to many markets, but identifies key areas to strengthen protections and minimize disinformation risk. 

About half of the sites in our sample present medium risk for disinformation, but typically from poor performance on the Operations pillar. Thus, these domains could significantly improve their rank by addressing critical factors such as their byline policy, financial transparency and explaining how they verify the accuracy of stories.

The three sites classified as high to maximum risk published content with heavy biases and harmful targeting, opening a window for adversarial narratives and audience manipulation. This content was marked by high sensalisation, sharp partisanship and negative biases against individuals and groups. These sites thus scored low on both the Content and Operations pillars, apart from relatively open comment policies. 


Overall, this report offers a cautiously positive picture of disinformation risk in Japan’s media market, though there is a clear need for more clarity and transparency in Operations and vigilance regarding extreme, targeted content. 

The vast majority of sites in our assessment, as well as all domains entering this media market, could improve their rank, protect their audience and preserve their reputation by taking actions such as: 

  • Stating clear and specific operational and editorial policies, including a statement of editorial independence and guidelines to avoid conflicts of interest, and making it easily accessible on the site. 
  • Increasing transparency regarding the fact-checking process.
  • Clarifying how individuals and groups can communicate errors in articles to the site and publish clearly visible and accessible details on corrections.
  • Publishing the policies in place to ensure correct and transparent attribution directly on their sites.
  • Increasing fact-based ledes at the beginning of articles to allow audience members to gather basic facts before viewing a reporter’s interpretation.
  • Clearly displaying the rules for posting comments and explaining how user-generated comment sections are moderated to reduce disinformation risk as much as possible.

Read the full report for GDI’s full analysis and learn more about what Japanese newsrooms can do to minimise the risk of exposing their readers to disinformation.

Related Content

Country Study

Disinformation Risk Assessment: The Online News Market in the Philippines

This report presents findings regarding the disinformation risks for the media market in the Philippines, based on a study of 35 domains.

Find out more

Disrupting Disinformation: A Global Snapshot of Government Initiatives

GDI has examined the current legislation approaches of a dozen countries to address the problem of disinformation. Our study provides an overview and captures the gaps in the approaches of these governments that need to be addressed.

Find out more
Country Study

The Online News Market in Australia

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) and the Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre have produced an overview of disinformation risk ratings for 34 of the most visited media sites in Australia.

Find out more

Stay Up to Date

Subscribe to our newsletter to get direct updates on GDI’s latest research, publications, events and more.

Follow Us:TwitterLinkedIn