Nagoya – Across multiple posts in September, Noa Tsukino, 18, made her suicidal thoughts known to her social media followers.
Under different circumstances the posts by the Nagoya teen, a former member of a minor idol group and known in some circles among the city’s youth, may have served as a warning and led to her getting the help she needed.
Instead, Tsukino became another victim of cyberbullying in a country where such stories have become all too familiar.
The posts where she alluded to her suicidal ideations received toxic comments, including one that said she was “just faking it.”
On Sept. 27, Tsukino left a final message in response to the abusive comment, in which she thanked her friends and other loved ones, and confirmed her decision to end her life, saying, “The next thing I’ll do is make sure I die.”
Tsukino and one of her friends killed themselves in downtown Nagoya on Sept. 30. In a suicide note, she indicated that cyberbullying had pushed her to take her own life.
Tsukino’s mother confirmed her daughter’s death the next day, shortly after media reported the incident. The news was met with an outpouring of anguish among young people online, many of whom lamented that she wasn’t saved.
Netizens soon directed their fury at those who had criticized Tsukino, in particular the one who had called her a “faker” on Twitter. That comment was subsequently deleted.
A female colleague at a maid cafe where Tsukino had worked part-time was also targeted, with a YouTuber even posting a video where the girl was forced to kneel down and beg for forgiveness.
Tsukino’s mother, who fears such acts of revenge will only result in more victims, has called for the abusive posts to stop.
“This isn’t what my daughter would have wanted,” she said.
Calls for legal changes regarding cyberbullying have been growing since Hana Kimura, 22, a cast member of the popular Netflix reality show “Terrace House,” was found dead in a suspected suicide in May after becoming a target of hateful messages on social media.
A government panel last month proposed reducing court procedures so victims of cyberbullying can more swiftly identify individuals who make defamatory posts.
A panel of the communications ministry received more than 5,000 complaints about online abuse including defamation in fiscal 2019, about a fourfold jump from fiscal 2010. The government plans to submit a bill to revise the current law to next year’s ordinary Diet session.
But Chiki Ogiue, a critic well-versed in the issue of cyberbullying, said that online abuse will likely continue to bring about such tragedies unless social media platforms take more proactive measures.
“There needs to be a system which evaluates the appropriateness of an abusive post whenever one is made,” he said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 119 in Japan for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. You can also visit them at telljp.com. For those in other countries, visit www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html for a detailed list of resources and assistance.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.