Facebook Eavesdropping and Spree Murders: Neomugicha Killings and Social Media

Social Media sites apparently are running AI software that listens to discussions and then can flag the discussion for monitoring. Is this a good or a bad thing? Facebook have caught one predator already. I remember a dozen years ago, a guy in Japan putting up a status update that he was going on a spree kill – and he did. What would you prefer? Civil Rights or Monitoring? 

Lots of chatter at the moment about Facebook eavesdropping on your chatter. (see what I did there? 😛 )

Facebook and other social platforms are watching users’ chats for criminal activity and notifying police if any suspicious behavior is detected, according to a report.

The screening process begins with scanning software that monitors chats for words or phrases that signal something might be amiss, such as an exchange of personal information or vulgar language.

The software pays more attention to chats between users who don’t already have a well-established connection on the site and whose profile data indicate something may be wrong, such as a wide age gap. The scanning program is also “smart” — it’s taught to keep an eye out for certain phrases found in the previously obtained chat records from criminals including sexual predators. (Mashable)

As an online community manager I want to be up front and say: we live in a Police State anyway. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way – it’s up to you to decide how you feel about it – but there are no grey areas. If you state online that you are going to do something, you will find Police rocking up to your door. Full stop. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs re: communities (online and offline) mean that keeping one’s members safe and secure is priority number 2 (after sustainability of life/identity).

Police find things out by people eavesdropping, overhearing and reporting. And that’s how the community is kept safe. Take this incident on the Japanese online community 2Chan

The Neomugicha incident (西鉄バスジャック事件 Nishi-Tetsu basujakku jiken?) is the name given to the 2000 hijacking of a Japanese bus by a user of internet forum 2channel after placing a warning on the website.

An hour after posting a cryptic threat in a thread with the name “Neomugicha” (“Neo-Barley Tea”; ネオむぎ茶), the 17-year-old youth hijacked a bus “the Wakakusu” (Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co., Ltd.) in Dazaifu, Fukuoka, Japan, stabbing one passenger to death.[1] The Special Assault Team then stormed the hijacked bus and captured the youth alive.

The incident came as a shock to both 2channers, who had mocked Neomugicha as a liar, thinking he was posting about an attack that had already occurred, and to the general public.

Later, a poster named “Neouuroncha” (“Neo-Oolong tea”) attempted to imitate Neomugicha by plotting to blow up the Odakyu Electric Railway in Japan and posting warnings about it on 2channel. After the Neomugicha incident, however, the Japanese police were keeping a close eye on 2ch, so he was identified and arrested before his plan could be carried out.

A poster called “Neomugishu” (“Neo-Barley Wine”) also attempted to imitate the incident, planning a terrorist attack on a railway company, but he was also arrested. (wikipediaOpens in a new tab.)

What would you prefer? Freedom of speech to plot hijackings or monitoring for keywords? By the way, Google owns a patent in ambient noise so I suggest you don’t plot world domination in a crowded cafe either or you might end up on their search page one of these days…

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

4 thoughts on “Facebook Eavesdropping and Spree Murders: Neomugicha Killings and Social Media

  1. I’m all for it. Listen away. Protects my family and friends.

    On a side note… What?! Google owns a patent in ambient noise?

    1. the patent says they can listen to your environment through your computer mics (music, tv on, arguments) and deliver ads against the background noise 🙂

  2. One of my main issues is the boundary at which governments or other parties should be allowed to monitor. If we provide access to Facebook conversations, should they be allowed to monitor all emails for keywords? Should they be allowed to monitor all phone calls without a warrant? Should they be allowed to track civilian movements with subdermal implants? I know the last part sounds crazy, but if we could track everyone we would know who is talking with known criminals and who is involved in any crime.

    In this case, Facebook’s saving grace is that it is the owner of the platform and data (including any messages you send) so it can provide them to LEOs.
    The other issue is the potential for misuse of information. We live in a relatively free state in terms of political discourse, but if the government decided to change it’s tune, could they start requesting the data and messages related to anyone who talked bad about the government? Could the government use it to track and harass people it doesn’t like? Or worse, could an individual with the right security clearance use it to stalk or harass someone (quis custodiet ipsos custodes)?
    I realise that the protection and safety of everyone is important, but sometimes we need to realise the difference between real protection and security theatre. The hassle and cost (in terms of money and rights) compared to the protection provided. If we wanted full protection, we would be subdermally chipped and tracked.
    Personally, I feel there must be reasons behind most crimes, either those of ideology (bombings, terrorism), those of need (mugging people to feed a family or habit) or those of mental illness. Perhaps we should work more on improving our safety nets to help those who feel they need to commit a crime of need, identify and treat those with illnesses or addictions and work to create a society that is open, friendly and willing to listen so people don’t feel they need to resort to terrorism to be heard or understood?

    1. Also my concern – in our case Australian citizens are being monitored by a foreign body (American Facebook) with foreign investors (Russian and Middle East from memory) and are acting as sovereign LEOs. Nothing to say another country’s agenda couldn’t be enforced in future including US … I wonder how Chinese and Middle Eastern members of Facebook feel about being so closely monitored. Quite a few companies incl Google have handed over personal info to those regions..

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