Japan to boost online regulation after killing spree

TOKYO: Japan is considering tightening regulations on social media where vulnerable people share suicidal thoughts, the government said Friday in response to the grisly murders of nine young people reportedly contacted by their suspected killer through Twitter.

The discovery last month of a house of horrors in the Tokyo suburbs, with the dismembered bodies of the victims — aged between 15 and 26 — stashed in coolers and tool boxes, has shaken the country and turned attention to social media.

Suspect Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, had reportedly sought out people who posted messages on Twitter about killing themselves during a two-month murder spree.

"The suspect allegedly used an extremely dirty trick to lure victims and murder them, by exploiting their desire to kill themselves that were posted" online, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told ministers.

Another minister urged the government to look at ways of limiting access to such posts.

"We absolutely have to take steps to prevent this happening again," said Suga, who is the government's top spokesman, adding that authorities should also improve support for young people who posted these desperate messages online.

Suga later told reporters that the government would deliberate for a month before drafting fresh measures to tackle the sharing of self harm content online, without giving details.

The plans under consideration could include demanding internet firms filter out problematic content, public broadcaster NHK reported.

"Ninety percent of high school students have smartphones ... there must be a new world emerging that we have not seen in the past," Communications Minister Seiko Noda told reporters after the meeting.

Three high school girls, including a 15-year-old, were among the victims, according to reports.

Japan has the highest suicide rate among the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations, with more than 20,000 people taking their own lives annually.

The overall suicide rate has been falling since it peaked in 2003. — AFP