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Friday, May 26, 2017

Backdoor School Websites

学校裏サイト

A mobile phone, featurephone or smartphone is almost a must-have for school pupils in Japan - even, elementary school pupils - primarily as a way of maintaining contact between the child and his or her parents at all times.

A gakko-ura-saito ("backdoor school site," also known as a gakko-hikoshiki-saito, or "unofficial school site") is a non-public website dedicated to topics relating to a particular school, and which students of the school subscribe to.

In nearly all cases, these sites are can only  be accessed by mobile phones or smartphones (computer access is disabled by IP address identification) and are password-protected. Gakko-ura-saito are unsearchable on the internet.

The latest figures for such sites are already 9 years old, but Mombusho (the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology) estimated back then that there were over 38,000 gakko-ura-saito in Japan. However, this figure included even threads on major internet notice boards such as those operated by  Ni-Channel, MilkCafe and Yahoo Japan. Excluding these, the number dropped to over 4,700. However, this is considered a vast underestimate, considering the difficulty of ascertaining the existence of sites that don't appear on internet search engines.

Gakko-ura-saito are known to have existed at least as far back as 2002  and first came to public attention in 2006 when they were covered by the TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System Television) channel. The topic quickly got taken up by other TV channels and started being treated as a social problem.

Substance was given to this "social problem" reputation in September 2007, when a student at the privately-run Takigawa High School in Suma ward, Kobe, committed suicide as a result of harrassment via the school's gakko-ura-saito, leading to the arrest of four students a couple of months later on charges of extortion.

Besides threat-laden demands for money having been made via the gakko-ura-saito, nude photos of the student had been anonymously posted on it, as well as personal information such as his residential address and phone number.

The administrators of the site, however, were not subject to prosecution, as what the perpetrators had posted was not considered to be outright character assassination but hurtful abuse, in which case the law does not consider aiding and abetting to be a crime. However, in 2008, a court in a civil prosecution ordered the site administrators to pay damages of 550,000 yen.

Apparently much of the content of anonymous noticeboards on gakko-ura-saito are abusive, naming real names, and full of obscene images. Not only students, but parents/guardians, too, are the subject of abuse, leading in some cases to students having to change schools.

In 2008, Yokohama City carried out a survey on gakko-ura-saito, and ordered the removal of them at 68 of the 145 junior high schools in the city. Yet, it was reported that the school staff members charged with the task of taking the sites down were, themselves, made the target of abuse and slander on the sites.

Measures to contain damage caused by abusive postings on gakko-ura-saito include websites for parents and teachers that enable them to surreptiously join gakko-ura-saito for the purpose of monitoring them.

(The above information was gathered mainly from the 学校裏サイト page on Wikipedia.)

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