Those of you living in Japan or studying Japanese are likely familiar with the social networking site, Mixi. Mixi is similar to Myspace with a few important differences. New users need an invite from a preexisting member to enter the network. There is a “footprints” system that tracks other users who have visited your profile. Also, while the search system allows you to find people by name and location, most people are registered under a pseudonym, making it nearly impossible to zero in on a particular person. Compare this to Myspace’s service which accurately locate people within minutes using only their zip code and last name!
My Japanese friends are amazed at how much information us Westerners voluntarily put up in plain view for anyone with a Yahoo account to peruse. Even with the safeguards afforded by Mixi’s closed network, Japanese people tend to be hesitant about putting traceable personal information online. While this could be chalked up to cultural differences, urban legends such as the Hairy Butt Burger Incident play an important part as well.
Image courtesy of the fiends at UncyclopediaFlashback to October 2006. Mixi had finally his its stride after launching in April 2004 and was attracting around one million new users per quarter. Users still felt secure in their digital backyards, some even registering under their real names. For a certain unwitting young couple, this powder keg of complacency was primed to explode and take everything precious to them with it.
The boyfriend received a computer virus over the file sharing program Winny, which then leaked compromising pictures he had taken of his girlfriend to other users. The pictures immediately found their way onto 2channel, the world's largest anonymous BBS and home to a rogue's gallery of ruthless Internet trolls. The denizens of 2channel took time out of their busy schedule of organizing phone bombing and slander campaigns to find the boyfriend's Mixi, registered under his real name, using information leaked from his Winny account. From there all it took was a click to find his girlfriend’s profile, also registered under her real name.
There they found details about her job as a juvenile parole officer. The trolls smelled blood. In their Internet feeding frenzy they stripped the couple of every last shred of decency, resulting in a veritable dung heap of posts that encouraged users to torment the couple's friends on Mixi by posting the illicit pictures in question along with defamatory messages, not to mention the obligatory threatening phone calls to their places of employment. Sleazy weekly tabloids jumped on the story, and there were even unconfirmed rumors that the girlfriend committed suicide after losing her job over the incident.
Mixi was quick to respond with a mighty swing of their ban hammer, excommunicating not only the users directly involved, but everyone on their friends list as well. Hundreds of accounts vanished overnight. After the dust settled, both users and the media alike called the responsibility of social networking site moderators into question. Mixi denied all involvement, and while stock prices temporarily dropped, registration numbers continues to climb. The incident has since become an Internet meme of sorts, and has even spawned an independent comic!
The only loose end in this unfortunate tale is, well, where did the name Hairy Butt Burger come from? As such graphic imagery would violate the rules of the Japan Blog Matsuri I'm not at liberty to say, but curious readers can Google their way to the truth. But we warned. Once you sink your teeth into those juicy buns, there's no forgetting the flavor.