Japan's top web forum an outlet for free speech -- and hate

Japan's biggest Internet forum, where anonymous netizens trade anything from cooking tips to death threats, has long been an anarchic zone of uninhibited free speech and a magnet for controversy.

This week the raw commentary on 2channel - which with 10 million visits a month is one of the world's largest online bulletin boards - saw tempers flare anew.

A massive hacker attack from South Korea crippled the site in retaliation for users' online slights against Olympic skater Kim Yu-Na, after she beat Japanese rival Mao Asada to take gold at the Vancouver Winter Games.

The site was attacked on Monday, the anniversary of a 1919 uprising in Korea against Japanese colonial rule, and shut down for two days.

Japanese web users counter-attacked by bombarding South Korean sites, including that of the presidential office, according to South Korea's JoongAng Daily, which called the tit-for-tat flaming "infantile".

The Japanese site, www.2ch.net, does not ask for personal ID details and hosts unfiltered views, in contrast to most chat forums where registration and vetting have become the norm in a bid to keep discussion orderly.

"This is a vast group of bulletin boards on everything from hacking to porn," the site tells users. It boasts about 1,000 topics, from politics to sport to manga comics.

"Sender information cannot be detected, so you can access it from your office, school or prison," users are told. "Please write as you like."

The site was launched in 1999 by a college student, Hiroyuki Nishimura, who has since written several books and is a regular on television shows.

Not counting online role-playing games, it is easily Japan's biggest bulletin board by number of users and page views, according to research firm NetRatings Japan.

The site has given space for discussion on touchy subjects, including Japan's royal family, and gay and lesbian life.

Companies and pollsters review the site to build marketing strategies and study the raw pulse of users and consumers.

At their best, the site's postings have spawned books and movies, including a passionate chronicle by a shy man known as the Train Guy who dated a woman and sought advice from fellow 2channel users.

But no-holds-barred messages also voice sexist, nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments, many targeting Chinese and Koreans.

South Koreans were furious recently when a writer said the mob killing of a Korean college student in February in Irkutsk was "Russia's good deed".

At times, users have threatened crimes on the site.

One of them was Tomohiro Kato, who sent messages from his cellphone shortly before he killed seven people in a stabbing frenzy in Tokyo's neon-lit electronics district in 2008, Japan's bloodiest crime in years.

Nishimura, who gave up control of the site last year but maintains interests in many Internet companies, is unabashed about the darker side of 2channel.

"Ten million people come to the site every month. There is no city in the world with a population of 10 million that has no crime," he said.

Tsutomu Kanayama, professor of journalism and communications at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, said 2channel laid bare the pluses and minuses of the social media revolution.

"Mainly because of the anonymity system, it has gone too far and is now full of offensive and meaningless comments," he said.

"But on the other hand, it's a positive trial for a future cyber-forum where anyone can pose real opinions freely. It has both a light and a dark side."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
film
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£17 - £20 per hour: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owned and c...

Guru Careers: Mac Operator / Artworker

£Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Mac Operator / Artworker to ...

Guru Careers: Digital Content Designer / Web Designer

£Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Content Designer / W...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore