Japan targets suicide websites after 'house of horrors' slayings

By Allen Cone  |  Nov. 10, 2017 at 2:43 PM
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Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Japanese authorities are targeting suicide websites 10 days after nine people were lured to an apartment for a death pact were found, officials said.

Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, was arrested Oct 31 and confessed to preying on victims with suicidal thoughts on social networking sites with the hashtag "suicide recruitment." He said he lured them to his apartment in Zama City with pacts to die together.

Authorities said he instead killed and dismembered his victims. Nine heads and 240 bones were found on Halloween at his Kanagawa apartment dubbed a "house of horrors." The one man in the group was killed after confronting Shiraishi about the whereabouts of his girlfriend.

On Friday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said specific ways to clamp down on the websites will be announced next month.

"The use of Twitter -- a social networking site that is difficult to keep an eye on -- to exploit the cries for help by victims who wrote about committing suicide is despicable," he said. "We will get to the bottom of this crime, and work towards preventing its re-occurrence."

Suga wants cooperation between website operators and the authorities, including taking down offending sites.

During the first half of 2017, more than 900 people under 18 were victims of crimes linked to social media, including sexual crimes such as child prostitution and pornography, National Police Agency statistics show.

"Researchers are beginning to see the dark recesses of the Internet feature prominently in the planning stages of a serial murderer, as they utilize it to locate potential victims, research the methods of previous killers, connect with other like-minded individuals, and store records of their activities and achievements," criminal profiler Enzo Yaksic, director of Northeastern University's Atypical Homicide Research Group in Boston, said to The Straits Times

He said with the advent of social media serial killers now "behave in ways that are not typical to how they operated in the past."

Twitter Japan said it will prohibit posts that want assist assisatrance or encourage suicide, and have them taken down.

A revised anti-stalking law regulates repeated sending of messages on social media, but there are no legal regulations about suicidal messages.

The Japan Times said in an editorial Friday that it will be difficult to regulate online messages posted anonymously through accounts using pseudonyms. And users may exchange messages directly with each other after the first contact is made.

"It is said that many of the people who post suicidal messages on SNS do not necessarily wish to die," the editorial said. "Instead they want somebody to listen to their problems."

The education ministry is urging schools to enhance student education on the issue.

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