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Worries persist about Japan’s teens using Line for hooking

Weekly Playboy Feb. 18

The number of registered users of the smartphone application Line recently topped 100 million, with approximately 41 million of them residing in Japan.

While typically used for sending text messages and chatting on forums, the app is also facilitating encounters that lead to teenage prostitution, one industry insider tells Weekly Playboy (Feb. 18).

The manager of pick-up site Once in a Lifetime Hook-Up, who goes by the name Sai, says that the bulletin boards on Line have ended up becoming a hotbed for sex crimes, such as enjo kosai (or compensated dating).

“The site Star Beach started as a pen pal site but changed into a popular den for prostitution,” says Sai. “Now, the bulletin boards on Line seem to have comparable momentum.”

For Line, a user ID is assigned to the phone number of each smartphone that downloads the app. Such an ID can then be used to post messages on the bulletin boards, which could then result in communication with unknown persons.

Starting in December of last year telecommunications company au disallowed the assignment of Line IDs to users of its Android smartphones who are under 18 years of age. However, such a policy is not in place for the company’s iPhone models. Further, carriers NTT DoCoMo and Softbank do not have any similar restrictions for any of their smartphones.

“In short, just about anyone with a smartphone can access Line’s bulletin boards,” says Sai.

According to a report on public broadcaster NHK that ran at the end of last year, 14 sex-crime incidents in seven prefectures could be traced back to encounters via Line.

In January, Aichi prefectural police arrested three male office workers on child prostitution charges after they allegedly picked up girls aged between 14 and 16 through Line.

“It goes without saying that this is the tip of the iceberg,” Sai tells the tabloid. “There was concern before, but now the LINE bulletin board network is a fully functioning pick-up site.”

Weekly Playboy says that encounter (or deai-kei) sites have in the past had an underground feel to them. That is not the case with the wholesome image LINE has fostered, which is part of the problem.

“It’s a big name,” says Sai. “Girls have acquired a feeling of relief (in using the app). Their sense of danger has become paralyzed.”

The manager says that for many teen girls, the app has become essential. “Nowadays, you cannot enter a circle of friends without Line. It is essential for connecting with existing friends, and there is no wariness in posting on the bulletin boards.”

On many encounter sites, the presentation of identification at the time of registration is being strictly enforced.

Sai says that is what has brought the enjo kosai wave to Line. “The number of young gals posting messages on Line has exploded,” he says. “The Line bulletin boards are dominated by girls looking to sell and guys looking to buy.”

Source: “Esukareeto suru ‘LINE enko’ no jittai!” Weekly Playboy (Feb. 18, pages 64-65)