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Record number of minors in Japan fell victim to crimes via social media in 2017

Many perpetrators impersonate children using fake photos in online profiles to meet victims or have them send compromising selfies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 8:41pm

Police in Japan investigated a record 1,813 cases involving minors who fell victim to sexual and other crimes perpetrated through the use of social media in 2017, official data showed on Thursday.

The figure, excluding cases involving online dating services, is believed to have been pushed up by an increasing number of children who are coerced into sending naked photos of themselves to people they met through online social media services, according to police.

The number of minor-aged victims was up 77 from a year earlier to the highest level since comparable data became available in 2008, the National Police Agency said.

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“Children may start discussing or sharing their worries [through social media] but could be threatened by [users] who obtain the kids’ personal data through online interactions,” an NPA official said.

A spate of crimes was reported in which perpetrators impersonated children of a similar age to the victim using a fake photo in their online profiles to meet or have the victim take and send compromising selfies.

“It is important for us to step up our efforts as a society as a whole to prevent children from being victimised,” NPA Commissioner General Shunichi Kuryu said at a press conference. He said police will continue to raise public awareness.

Of the total, 702 minors were victims of sexual misconduct and other crimes in violation of an ordinance on juvenile protection, a figure that has remained almost flat over the last few years.

Breaches of a law prohibiting child prostitution and pornography have been on the rise in recent years, with child prostitution victims totalling 447 in 2017. The number nearly doubled from 226 in 2013.

Minors in child pornography cases including those involving naked selfies reached 570, up from 341 in 2013.

A total of 61 children fell prey to serious crimes including 24 rapes and 21 abductions. There were no murders recorded.

By age group, 51.9 per cent of victims were of high school age, 37.2 per cent junior high schoolers and 2.3 per cent in junior school.

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The youngest victim was an eight-year-old female who was convinced to send an image to someone she met through YouTube.

Twitter and other online services that enable communication with multiple users were found to be used by many victims. The number of victims of crimes using such services stood at 855 in 2017 while that of those using online chat services was 579.

Of 1,468 minors who met the perpetrators in person after becoming acquainted online, 29.6 per cent said they did so to receive money and gifts, followed by 22.9 per cent who said they were treated kindly or received advice and 17.0 per cent who were looking for friends.