Shosei Koda was a 24-year-old male from Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. He entered Iraq in October 2004 by land via Anman, Jordan. His objectives in entering Iraq at the time were tourism and “finding himself” by traveling. However, he was kidnapped by Iraqi terrorists and became the first Japanese hostage to be videotaped being beheaded on October 29, 2004. The event was widely covered in the mainstream media in Japan and on the Internet.
The News Flow of Events Leading to the Execution of Shosei Koda
The following is a summary of the flow of events that led to the execution of Shosei Koda, according to a cross referencing of stories published in Mainichi Newspaper and Asahi Newspaper between October and November 2004:
October 27, 2004 (before dawn, Japan Standard Time [JST]) The “al-Qaida Organisation of Holy War in Iraq” begins webcasting video images claiming that they have captured a Japanese hostage.
October 29, 2004 (before dawn, JST) The deadline addressed by the terrorist group ordering the Japanese Self Defense Force to withdraw from Iraq—48 hours—is past.
October 29, 2004 (before noon, JST) German news services begin reporting that a dead body with Asian features was found in the city of Tikrit in northern Iraq.
October 29, 2004 (evening, JST) Japanese Foreign Minister Machimura announces to reporters that according to the Japanese Embassy in Iraq, the dead body found (in Tikrit) is not likely to be Shosei Koda.
October 30, 2004 (dawn, JST) U.S. military forces in Iraq notify the Japanese Embassy in Iraq that a body matching characteristics of Shosei Koda was found in Balad, located between Baghdad and Tikrit.
October 30, 2004 (dawn, JST) Hatsuhisa Takashima (Press Secretary/Director-General for Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) holds a press conference announcing that a Japanese body matching Shosei Koda’s description was found in Balad.
October 30, 2004 (noon, JST) A U.S. military cargo plane carrying the body arrives in Kuwait. A medical official of the Japanese Embassy in Kuwait inspects the body.
October 30, 2004 (afternoon, JST) Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda confirms that from the evidence found the body is not that of Shosei Koda.
October 31, 2004 (before dawn, JST) The Iraqi Ministry of Health reports that the body of Shosei Koda has been found.
October 31, 2004 (late morning, JST) Japanese Foreign Minister Machimura holds a press conference announcing that the body of Shosei Koda was found in Baghdad and was confirmed through fingerprints.
November 3, 2004 (noon, JST) The body of Shosei Koda arrives at Fukuoka Airport.
November 4, 2004 (evening JST) Through the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau, the Japanese Ministry of Justice requests that the operator of an Internet forum terminate circulation of pictures of Shosei Koda’s dead body because it is violating human rights and emotionally tormenting the bereaved family.
The Channel 2 Flow of Postings Associated with the Execution of Shosei Koda
The flow of initial postings associated with the execution of Shosei Koda in Channel 2 is as follows:
October 31, 2004 (03:32 JST) A link leading to what are supposedly pictures of the body of Shosei Koda is posted.
October 31, 2004 (13:22 JST) A link to CNN Online reporting the finding of Shosei Koda’s body is posted.
November 2, 2004 (13:56 JST) The link to the video image of Shosei Koda’s execution is posted.
November 2, 2004 (15:41 JST) Links to the video capture jpegs are posted.
November 2, 2004 (15:49 JST) News and comments on the video of Shosei Koda begin getting posted on the Channel 2 threads.
November 2, 2004 (18:53 JST) The authenticity of the video file is confirmed.
November 2, 2004 (19:33 JST) The video image is copied for redistribution on a different server.
November 2, 2004 (19:48 JST) Warnings are attached to the link on the threads.
November 4, 2004 (03:23 JST) The links to the video of Shosei Koda are added to the template posting collection.
November 8, 2004 (21:04 JST) The template is erased from the template posting collection.
The Anti-War and Execution Video Thread (Kubikiridougawomite Sensouhantaisurusure)
The following are approximate translations (Japanese to English) of characteristic postings that exemplify each category:
Criticism of Koda’s actions. “The reason why Koda was in Iraq was obvious, he was backpacking. He wanted to see what a nation at war would be like. He only had U.S.$100 and tried to get on the bus with U.S. $20. Unbelievable. He was denied accommodations at a hotel, but he probably tried to stay at the hotel with U.S. $10. Did he think he would get special treatment because he was Japanese? He was even wearing short pants. That’s like saying I am a foreigner, please kidnap me. Unbelievably stupid……”
Prayers for safety/worrying about Koda. “Koda is an idiot, but I hope he gets saved!! Although if he gets saved, everyone in Japan will really be angry with him. How could they [terrorists] be so cruel? Some of them still must have family, how can anyone become so cold [comments about executions].”
Anticipation of the Koda execution video. “Let’s hope the videos come out soon, while the topic is still hot.”
Anxiety/fear about the Koda execution video. “If possible, I’d rather not see Koda’s beheading. I don’t understand what he did, but I don’t want to see another Japanese get his head cut off.”
Attacks of those anticipating the Koda video. “He’ll probably get executed. I’ll feel really ashamed if there are still postings cavorting about his execution after seeing the videos. What ever happened to the morals of the Japanese?”
. “A supposedly Japanese dead body found in Iraq. Possibly Koda http://www.asahi.com/national/update/1030/005.html
Circulation of false information. “‘The demands were refused so they said they will kill me.’ And after saying that, they tied his arms, shot him in the back and in the head with a gun. No beheading. The gun was a handgun.”
Banter about Koda. “His head will get chopped off and separated and he’ll be happy!”
Other (neutral opinions, comments) “I am not sure what will happen next?”
Mourning over Koda’s death. “I knew this was going to happen to him when he got caught. He must have regretted going to Iraq so many times before his execution. I feel sorry for his parents.”
Anger toward terrorism. “The guys who beheaded him should get beheaded themselves.”
Questions. “Although it’s censored on the mainstream news, there really is an execution video of Shosei Koda, right?” or “ How do you open a zip file?”
Fusiana traps. “If you write fusianasan in your name field, you can make your postings totally anonymous and untraceable.” (When you type “fusianasan” in the name field with your posting, this is actually a code that reveals your IP address. In essence, this is a “trap” that reveals your IP address in the name field of your posting. Due to the large increase in novice users that occurs during certain events, some of the seasoned Channel 2 users played this trick on novice users to make them reveal their IP address.)
Remote hosting. “Check out the video at http://www.….” (This is another trap that is common on shady Japanese websites. URLs or website links are posted, disguised as links to websites where the user can find what he or she is searching for. Instead, the link jumps to a website that displays the user’s IP address, Internet service provider, and other information accessible from the user’s computer. The website also threatens the user with an outrageous “membership fee” to be wired to the website owner immediately.)
Verification. “This execution was probably at the secret base of the terrorists. It looks like it’s inside a room and immediately after the execution.”
Terror-politics-war. “Koda has probably been executed already. I can’t imagine him getting saved.”
Table 2 shows the frequency of each category in each of the five threads.
Table 2. Frequencies of the categories in the five threads
|Part (Thread Number)||11||12||13||14||15|
|Criticism of Koda’s actions||34||6||5||10||13|
|Prayers for safety/worring about Koda||26||7||0||0||0|
|Anticipation of the Koda execution video||62||74||58||79||37|
|Anxiety/fear about the Koda execution video||10||25||6||33||107|
|Attacks of those anticipating the Koda video||13||7||4||8||13|
|Circulation of false information||6||22||10||18||0|
|Banter about Koda||43||81||54||115||38|
|Other (neutral opinions, comments)||68||50||45||43||44|
|Mourning over Koda’s death||0||13||11||20||94|
|Anger toward terrorism||0||10||20||7||41|
|Total of the 16 categories in each thread||295||384||268||496||629|
|Ascii Art / Empty / Trolls||705||616||732||504||371|
|Total postings in each thread||1000||1000||1000||1000||1000|
Thread Part 11 (October 27-October 31) coincides with the initial release of the hostage video of Shosei Koda. There were as yet not many postings on Shosei Koda during this time period, relatively speaking, because news of Shosei Koda’s kidnapping had not yet diffused widely. In Part 12 (October 30-November 1), a beheaded Asian was in news reports and with this, anticipation postings and mourning postings increased. In thread Part 13 (October 31-November 2), many newcomers and novice users unfamiliar with the thread or Channel 2 rules began posting entries. During Part 14 (November 2, 03:44 JST through November 2, 19:38 JST), numerous fake links to fake video sites gave rise to skepticism toward postings claiming new information about the videos. At this time, the Channel 2 community was still calm while waiting for verification of the links to the actual video.
Once the videos were confirmed to be real, there was an increase in postings by users mourning Koda’s death. The link posted (Part 14, posting number 680) to the server with the Koda execution video had extremely heavy traffic, so most users in the community waited. By postings 810 and 848 of Part 14, some users began reporting successful downloading of the video. By posting 876 of Part 14 (November 2, 19:15 JST), the videos had been verified, the files uploaded onto different “uploaders,” and users began downloading the files.
However, some users were not able to view the videos due to anxiety about them, and some reported regret after watching the video files (“I feel really sick and shocked after actually seeing his head being chopped off”). In Part 15 (November 2, 19:44 JST through November 3, 02:50 JST), many of the users had downloaded the execution files, and comments and opinion exchange continued. Futility, chagrin, sadness, and anger were commonly expressed in the posted comments, as illustrated by comments (translated from Japanese into English) such as, “That [file] really sent a chill down my spine,”“How can any human being do this to another human being?,” and “Couldn’t there have been any other kind of solution?”
Opinions on war, terror, and politics continued to be posted, and discussions on these topics intensified. Comments questioning the premises of the war, such “What is the real reason behind this war anyway?” and “Why are people committing these acts of terror?,” began to appear. At the same time, many newcomers to Channel 2, including novice Internet users, began participating in the Koda thread.
In this sequence of events, the execution video attracted much attention. However, it also inspired the users to limit or stop access to “uploaders” distributing the execution videos; in other words, it prompted voluntary ethical moderation by the user community. Postings expressing remorse and attempting moderation swelled in frequency and ultimately predominated. Comments like “You people shouldn’t put links to this!” or “Don’t you feel any remorse over the execution of a fellow Japanese human being?” and “Let’s track down these human trash distributing the files and confront them in real life” illustrate the attempts by Channel 2 users to moderate the forum.
We classified antisocial postings as “agitation,” cynical postings as “neutral,” and pro-social postings and postings of criticism as “moderation.” In thread Part 11, the number of postings that could be categorized as agitation was higher than moderation, but by thread Part 15, this order was reversed, with a sharp increase in postings that advocated ethical pro-social moderation and a decrease in postings of agitation, as shown in Figure 1.
In Figure 1, one can observe how users first discussed this topic with agitation, but how the postings were directed toward ethical moderation by a large portion of the users following exposure to the murder files. In turn, the large number of postings attempting to moderate the postings of agitation led to a significant decrease in antisocial postings.
Although one may consider this case to be an exception or an anomaly, the dynamics we uncovered through our analysis constitute a somewhat startling example of how a failure in the “bad” Internet elicited some “good” from society. This case exhibits how content that highly violated morality and ethics appeared and how a self-regulating mechanism by the user community functioned pro-socially in an uncontrolled, anonymous Internet forum, without requiring any external regulation.