Copycat threats put spotlight on 'net freedoms

Akihabara was back to normal today, but Japan's 'net users may never be the same
Akihabara was back to normal today, but Japan's 'net users may never be the same

Isn't the internet great? How else could dunderheads like those just arrested in Japan threaten to go postal in copycat street slayings similar to the recent Akihabara killings.

Of course, they could always send rambling letters to newspapers, but that's a bit old-fashioned, especially when no one reads the papers anymore.

Frustrated rants

Instead, their online outpourings of bile and frustration are landing them in handcuffs and adding fuel to the fire that threatens to consume online freedoms in Japan.

The three people currently being questioned were nabbed after threatening attacks ranging from burning down train stations to aiming to top the Akihabara death toll by going for 100 stabbings in a Tokyo shopping street.

Government to act

While it's all clearly infantile nonsense (until one of these nuts acts out his fantasies, that is), the implications for the rest of the country's 'net users are clear.

A government already fixated on the perils of allowing its citizens to communicate online by an ongoing spate of web-related suicide-pacts and sites that dish up recipes for poison gas is sure to act soon.

Implications for us all

Whether that involves the automatic monitoring software the communications ministry there talked of last week or something more draconian is likely to depend on how long Japan's current obsession with the darker side of geek culture lasts.

And, as we well know, once one supposedly democratic country starts down the censorship road, others are sure to follow.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.