Cyberstalking cases may take an ugly, violent turn
CYBERSTALKING cases via Twitter, Facebook and other social networking services (SNS) are on the rise, with perpetrators sending unsolicited messages and monitoring the behaviour of victims.
In one incident in May, entertainer Mayu Tomita, a 20-year-old university student, was stabbed in Koganei, western Tokyo.
The police do not keep record of the number of cyberstalking cases or reports from victims.
But the number of cases has skyrocketed from 10 in 2012 to 97 in 2013 and 471 in 2015, according to data from the Tokyo-based National Web-counselling Conference.
Targets of cyberstalking are often people the perpetrator has never met, but has developed unsolicited feelings for, based on photos or posts uploaded to SNS sites, or former romantic partners.
They repeatedly send messages to victims or monitor their behaviour online.
After being rejected, a perpetrator often becomes angry and posts personal information about the victim on online message boards, or sends a barrage of slanderous messages.
According to police, the suspect in the Tomita stabbing case, Tomohiro Iwazaki, 27, fits this description.
In January, he sent hundreds of messages via Twitter, such as "I love you" and "I want to drink with you, so I'm building up my tolerance to alcohol".
It has been reported that when Iwazaki sent a wristwatch as a present to Ms Tomita, she felt uneasy about accepting the gift and returned it.
After that, Iwazaki began to express anger online and eventually carried out the attack. He now faces various charges, including attempted murder.
In cyberstalking cases, it is sometimes possible for perpetrators to find out where their victims live based on information on SNS sites, such as preferred restaurants or photographs taken in the victim's neighbourhood.
For photographs taken using smartphones, information about the user's location is recorded unless the Global Positioning System function is switched off.
"Taking precautions such as restricting access to one's personal information to friends is effective," said Masashi Yasukawa, chairman of the National Web-counselling Conference.
"With the popularisation of SNS sites, it's becoming more common for people to develop a sense of familiarity towards strangers."
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK