In a bizarre twist on the Internet suicide pacts that first emerged in Japan in 2003, the Japanese appear to be turning to the web to recruit hitmen, according to statistics published Thursday.
The Times of London reported that illegal and “harmful” online postings leapt by more than a half in 2009, according to local Web watchdog, the Internet Hotline Center. The “harmful” postings, which included contract killings, and groups or individuals seeking suicide partners, rose by two percent to 6,217 cases.
Illegal traffic considered dangerous society, including child pornography, increased to 33,968 from just over 20,000 the previous year. Authorities managed to shut down four fifths of harmful postings but thousands remained online, according to the watchdog.
Although Japan, which is responsible for 40 percent of the world's blogs, has yet to convict an online hit man, it hanged its first Internet serial killer, Hiroshi Maeue last year.
Over four months in 2005 Maeue lured three victims seeking suicide partners, a 14-year old boy, a woman and man over four months on suicide sites, strangling each for sexual gratification.
However, the murders don't appear to be deterring other suicidal browsers from going online and group suicides in Japan remain a problem.
The most infamous in 2004 claimed nine lives in one day with a group of four men and three women asphyxiating themselves with carbon monoxide producing charcoal burners in cars parked in a secluded lay by on a mountain road 30 miles from Tokyo.
Minutes after the police discovered the macabre scene the bodies of two other women were found in a separate car dozens of miles away. More recently in 2008 three men gassed themselves by mixing household detergents in a bucket.
Suicide networking has caught on in other parts of Asia too. Last July eight Singaporean online gaming teenagers agreed to kill themselves. Six, however, eventually lost their nerve after seeing the first two jump from a ninth floor window.
Yet for authorities in Japan a more worrying trend might be the doubling of illegal Internet activity in 2009 including a surge in child pornography to 4,486 reported cases from 2,038 a year earlier.
Attitudes to child pornography in Japan, where childlike fashions and mannerism in women are seen as cute, are vague. Laws as a result are weaker than in the U.K and elsewhere with only distribution and not possession punishable by fines and imprisonment.
The recent increase in images and videos on the web is now pushing lawmakers to tighten laws. The latest is a campaign by Tokyo's metropolitan government, which is targeting lewd manga that depict minors involved in sexual acts. It hasn't however said how it will judge whether fictional cartoon characters are over 18 years old.