Line, the chat app that is exploding in popularity in Japan and other Asian countries, has published an online safety guide for teens after a string of incidents in which it was used to maliciously target young women.
The company’s online guide, published Wednesday in Japanese, includes tips for identifying “dangerous individuals” from their chat messages. These include people that ask sex-related questions, ask for details including bust size and weight, and offer employment as models or introduction to stars.
“Sadly, there aren’t only good people in the world,” the guide said, adding that “girls in particular need to be cautious.”
The guide is a symbol of Japan’s growing pains with popular chat apps like Line, a new category of social network. As a chat app, it is less open to strangers than Facebook, but less anonymous than Japanese social networks like Mixi
Line encourages users to share their true identities by registering with their mobile phones, and automatically connects users based on the contents of their address books. The company said in January it hit 100 million users, with nearly half in Japan, and is adding 3 million per week. That is over double the 45 million users it had in June of last year.
The app has been used in a series of crimes and incidents highlighted in the Japanese press recently. This year, local newspapers reported that a 32 year-old man was arrested after he used Line to lure a 15 year-old girl to a hotel and committed “improper actions” against her, and several men were arrested after they used the app to form sexual relationships with young women aged 14 to 16. The app has also been used to used to commit fraud against and bribe overly trusting users.
Line, which is mainly used on iOS and Android mobile phones but also has a computer version, included instructions on how to block users in the guide. It also warned young users not to reply to messages from complete strangers and not to share their user IDs online.