In Japan, there is a massive discussion board with 230 million page views per day called 2channel. It has played an important role on the Japanese internet for 15 years. It is an anonymous textboard, attracting the most Net traffic in the country.
Since Feb 19 2014, however, a conflict between Hiroyuki Nishimura (the founder of 2channel and, until recently, its manager) and his business partner Jim Watkins (an ex-U.S Army commander) regarding its administration and ownership suddenly became clear. Consequently, Mr Watkins secured the domain name, administrative rights and everything by exploiting his status as a 2channel administrator. He then expelled Nishimura from the site, and now maintains it himself.
Through this internal strife, the existence of a paid service to delete postings of 2channel was uncovered on April 2, by a sudden announcement from Hiroyuki’s business partner, Mr Uchiyama, Hotlink, Inc‘s president.
Mr. Uchiyama’s company, Hotlink, has been tied up with 2channel in an exclusive contract, and offered to monitor and delete negative threads and comments about its customers. And it was detected that among its customers was listed Japan’s ruling government party, the LDP. This information was uncovered by anonymous 2channel users. In fact, this privileged access to delete opinions was not widely known by internet users, and caused considerable alarm.
This service is, though its overall figure is unknown, thought to have administrative access rights to 2channel:
(From a company press release. after the Merger and Acquisition Process, Hotlink is now a member of this “Net Defamation Basters” team)
Further, according to Hotlink, the data is supplied exclusively from 2 channel. Since anyone can see 2channel’s posts freely, one question that occurs is “What kind of data did the ex-administrators sell?”. They may have included personal data Hiroyuki collected without the permission or knowledge of users. This suspicion is corroborated by a 2013 scandal where personal information of 40,000 2channel customers was leaked; administrators recorded the user name, address, phone number, post logs, credit card number and security code, all without the users’ consent. For what purpose did they collect all this personal data unless it was to sell it?
Among several shady channels, Hotlink’s customers included Japan’s ruling government party, the LDP, alongside several business giants. And as for official announcements stated below, the LDP used the service offered by Hotlink in the 2013 House of Councillors election.
Then, the contracts and money goes from LDP to Hotlink and then to the Hiroyuki-owned 2channel. Therefore, the sponsor of 2channel is, in reality, Japan’s Government Party LDP. Those disclosures were shocking because, according to its own official announcement, 2channel is a discussion board with no commercial interest. Administration is done by unpaid volunteers, and everybody was told that the highest value of the board was nothing but FREE SPEECH.
Suspicion about this tie-up with Hotlink goes even further; how far did the scope of their services go? One serious issue is whether or not Hiroyuki gave a privileged deal to the Government Party LDP. Hotlink officially boasts they can control and “extinguish the fire” of harsh criticism in internet communities.
If so, had they abused the data from 2channel administrators in order to stop the spread of information or opinions that the Japanese government disliked on 2 channel? Also, in some 2channel boards, administrators have special access to permit or deny the creation of threads. Those with an agenda on 2channel could have intentionally dismissed the creation of topics, or arbitrarily deleted comments or threads which Japanese Government Party LDP did not want to allow discussion of. So, the LDP sponsored Hiroyuki may have manipulated the opinions of a self-professed “independent discussion board”.
This hypothesis is not as absurd as it may have sounded a few years ago. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, it is widely recognized that Japan has seen a recent increase in Right Wing thought. And this tendency has been stronger on 2channel, where hate speech is particularly prevalent. Also, anti-nuclear activists or politicians (like Naoto Kan, Mizuho Fukushima, Junichiro Koizumi) were fiercely defamed. But now, strangely, the attacks against those figures suddenly ceased since the LDP-linked Hiroyuki lost his administrative rights on 2channel.
This is the 1st page of Google results when you google “South Korea history” in Japanese. Most of the results are nationalistic hate speech towards South Korea. They are 2channel and affiliate sites led by Hiroyuki and his business partners. Also, Google’s 1st suggestion when you enter “South Korea history” is ” South Korea history fabrication”.
Propaganda activity on the internet is not exclusive to Japan. Mr. Edward Snowden taught us that:
(Documents from the article released by Mr Glenn Greenwald)
In my observation, many governments are obsessed with penetrating and controlling internet discussion secretly. Now, 2channel is completely ”occupied” by ex U.S. Army officer Mr. Jim Watkins. Both ２channel and Social Media may not be the perfect egalitarian forums for discourse that netizens once thought. However, we have to face and understand that fact in order to make rules and institutions on the internet.
(Translated and mirrored from http://echo-news.net/en/ldp-sponsored-and-benefited-by-underground-anonymous-2channel-board with permission.)
The anonymous discussion board 2channel (http://www.2ch.net/), the biggest website in Japan with 230 million page views a day, has been the target of a fierce cyberattack (including DDoS, DNS poisoning, and so on) every single day since April 13 2014. The self acclaimed offender is, astonishingly, the founder and ex-manager of the website Hiroyuki Nishimura.
Nishimura had been an icon in the Japanese internet community. He had been recognized as a guardian of free speech, for under harsh pressure from the police and other authorities, he seemed to have protected the anonymity and privacy of 2channel users. But now, he is attacking the web community he once protected and some of his attacks have actually succeeded in taking down 2channel’s servers. This sounds strange, of course. What is happening behind the scenes in this puzzling situation?
(Hiroyuki Nishimura: A regular guest at privileged university lectures. Photo from Wikipedia)
A very likely answer was suggested by the big data company Hotlink. On April 2, the CEO Mr. Uchiyama, announced that 2channel (http://www.2ch.net/) had been taken over. It was the first time that the fact Nishimura had strong ties to a big data business was widely known. It was also made clear that, since Feb 19, 2014, he and Hiroyuki had been negotiating over an ownership problem regarding 2ch’s ownership with its server company president Mr.Jim Watkins.
As a result of a failure to reach agreement over the ownership, Mr. Watkins seized the administration rights of 2ch, claiming that Nishimura had defaulted on financial obligations.
What confused all the users of 2ch was Nishimura’s statement on the seizure. He showed his intention to sue the volunteers who cooperated or helped to maintain 2ch community if they continues to do so. Actually, 2ch had been widely supported by these volunteers (many of them kept their positions, in anonymity). In Nishimura’s point of view, ownership of 2ch belonged to him and Mr. Watkins was illegally using the administration rights of 2ch.
Therefore anybody who aided and abetted Mr. Watkins were damaging Nishimura’s property and had to compensate for that. But this statement stroked a great deal of anger among the 2ch community.
After that, Nishimura made a new 2channel (http://www.2ch.sc/) based on Sakura Internet’s server in Tokyo, which is a favored ISP by the Japanese government. This second 2ch is a mirror site copying almost all the post of http://www.2ch.net/ by violently running a spider program bot. This massive use of spider crawling actually has actually caused the target server (2ch.net) to go down multiple times.
This kind of fierce exploitation of spider bot crawling is no different from a DDoS cyber attack. In fact, the Japanese police have arrested spider crawling users for much less than this.
Those activities by Nishimura made 2ch users raise up and ask furious questions. “Why do the users have to be hampered because of a conflict between managers?”, “DDoS crawling is clearly a cyber crime, why can he publicly admit to this without being arrested?”, “How can somebody cyber attack a website he owns?”
In response to these questions, Nishimura said he is just backing up the data which he owns by copyright from 2channel.
Then, other questions occurred to millions of 2ch users; why is Nishimura so obsessed with the ownership of 2ch? One of the most probable cases is, he is selling the user’s information secretly. That kind of collection of personal data without consent is prohibited by Japan’s privacy laws. But the credibility of this theory is strongly supported by 2ch.net’s mass data leakage in the summer of 2013. At that time, 40,000 users’ private data and comment logs were leaked, including their private data; full name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and credit card number with security code.
This contradicted Nishimura’s former position that only IP logs are kept by 2ch under his management, to protect user anonymity and free speech. IP records are solely used to investigate criminal investigations (such as drug trafficking), when required by the police. By this leakage scandal, he was accused by many but paid no compensation, and still keeps his status as a supporter of free speech. Nishimura said that the retention of private data due to some volunteer’s negligence in understanding 2ch’s policy and the leakage was an unfortunate accident. In spite of how insufficient this explanation was, it was completely overlooked.
But now, with the connection to a big data businessman like Mr. Uchiyama, negotiating over the ownership of 2ch.net being widely known, few people can believe Nishimura anymore. In addition, attempted DNS POISONING and retrieval of all 2ch.net server data (which failed) by someone has been reported by Jim Watkins. 2ch.net users are now suspicious that Nishimura was secretly a big data business man all along.
When questioned about the DDoS and DNS poisoning, Nishimura did not deny involvement. It further damaged his iconic status and some started to report allegations of Nishimura’s cyber attack to the Japanese police. In spite of that, Japan’s police has not yet begun an investigation.
This raised in people’s mind a mystery yet again; Nishimura’s apparent immunity to law enforcement authority. He has, in reality, broken the law countless times, perhaps thousands of times while managing 2channel. (i.e. permitting drug trafficking posts to remain even when asked by the police to remove them; essentially aiding and abetting drug trafficking by refusing to cooperate)
There are the basic facts of The 2channel Split Incident. In this author’s point of view, this is too long and complex to put into only one article.
This cyber attack from Japan to the server in U.S. by Nishimura is going to be followed up on in other articles. One shall be a Mr. Nishimura’s connections to the political world and another is now causing tension in Japan U.S. relations.
(Translated and mirrored from http://echo-news.net/en/japans-biggest-site-2channel-cyber-attacked-by-hiroyuki with permission.)
“Afikasu(アフィカス)” is a slang term for an illegal affiliate business doing anything to generate its own ad revenue. Most “afikasu” reprint forum logs without permission from 2ch.net and continue reprinting it without permission while insisting that it is a reproduction from the 2channel copy site (2ch.sc) after reproduction prohibition was decided by the self-government rule of 2ch.net.
The actual situation of “afikasu” is very stupid.
Not only do they copy forum logs, but they also tamper with the contents intentionally. As a result, they do stealth marketing of their products and create a false impression of support for companies and groups. “Afikasu” also post threads with sensational, attention-grabbing titles to earn a high number of pagesviews on their own site, posting it via sockpuppet accounts. They generate controversy and fuel conflict in threads, and try to create the impression that it is the general will of 2ch.net to post discriminatory messages and create conflict.
(Translated and mirrored from: http://fake2chbigwave.blog.fc2.com/ with permission.)
“Afikasu matome” is a generic name for sites and blogs that are run by “Afikasu”. We often call them “copy-paste blog” and “afikasu blog”.
Because many of them are in blog form, we call them “blogs” in general. There are a lot of sites called “Matome blogs”, but those blogs which do not get ad revenue and those which do not reprint without permission are not considered “afikasu matome”.
“Afikasu matome” edit the contents they copy from other sites intentionally, as was written in the ‘What is “Afikasu(アフィカス)”‘ section.
Recently, “Afikasu” reprint not only from 2ch.net but also Twitter, 4chan (http://www.4chan.org) and reddit (http://www.reddit.com). Not only do “afikasu” translate the content, they extract specific comments selectively and perform propaganda, publishing specific opinions and excluding others. This can often cause problems and misunderstandings.
It has already been mentioned that “afikasu” uses sensational titles and tampers with content to increase the number of pageviews, ignoring our desire not to reprint content without permission. However, in addition, there are other problems that cause us concern.
・Confusing the source origin of material.
Readers of “afikasu matome” (called “matome-min”) flow into the Twitter accounts and threads of 2ch.net published by “afikasu matome” and post slanderous messages questioning the true origin of the posted content (claiming the “afikasu matome” posted first, for example). Unrelated users whose posts are copied by “afikasu matome” are harassed and slandered.
・Incitation to fraud.
Some “afikasu matome” encourage fraud on penny auction sites.
They introduced advertisements to the penny auction sites as well as other affiliate advertisements, but trick users into accessing them via a dummy sites. There are 13 known “Afikasu matome” which do this, and they receive a very large amount of traffic.
Because big sites with a lot of influence performed such acts, “afikasu” have recieved a lot of criticism.
・Running content farms interfering with search results.
When searching for 2ch online, “Afikasu matome” results are displayed as though they were true 2ch threads, which is misleading. In addition, smartphone apps cause even more problems. When searching the AppStore or Google Play, “afikasu matome” apps show up more often than actual 2ch browsers. Many people feel that this is obstructive.
・Attempting to manufacture or distort public opinion.
It is common knowledge that “afikasu matome” does stealth marketing. However, that alone is not a major problem. But, they alsio post threads discussing politics and religion, and use sockpuppets to voice extreme opinions. As a result, only posts with content showing positive messages for a specific political party, and discriminatory opinions are reflected in the posts “afikasu matome” gather up. Japan’s “shift to the Right” that has been published about in the media around the world is very likely due, in no small part, to these distortions and propaganda operations by “afikasu”.
In addition, some “afikasu matome” has sites with content that promotes racism and fascism. Japanese people are not all inherently racist. This is the amplified voice of a vocal and hateful minority.
These are serious problems regarding public opinion manipulation. NHK, the public broadcast network in Japan, published news about the issue of the national pension plan in a news program on May 14. NHK published content from “afikasu matome” as though it were “the voice of the Internet”. It used “afikasu matome” as news source! This matter became a big topic on 2ch.net and Twitter, and NHK and the collusion scandal of “afikasu” came out, too. There is no real journalism in the Japanese major media anymore. (Of course, with the exception of “Echo News”)
There is a serious problem with “afikasu” and “afikasu matome”. So we are carrying out various activities. But the evildoing of “afikasu” will not stop unless somebody stops the spider program bots run Hiroyuki Nishimura, who is the ringleader. We continue to fight against Hiroyuki Nishimura to restore a free internet.
(Translated and mirrored from: http://fake2chbigwave.blog.fc2.com/ with permission.)