What started as a simple school memo sent out to parents last Friday has mushroomed into a nationwide discussion the issues of censorship and bullying in schools and online.

The issue was triggered by a tweet which was sent out on Friday by a now disabled account showing a photo of the letter along with the caption “my school wants to ban Line and stuff lolololol.”

Line has become a highly popular app in Japan for its variety of functions including instant messaging, image sharing, and free voice calls over the internet.

According to the photo that accompanied the original tweet, the memo read:

25/5/17

Regarding Line Ban

We hope all families are enjoying a healthy and prosperous spring season. Also we would like to thank you for your continuing support and cooperation in the educational activities of our school.

So, regarding the subject of this letter; in this school in April, various incidents occurred which had involved Line. This school feels that aside from contacting parents there is really no need for mobile phones. We especially feel that there is no place for Line in a child’s daily life.

From now on this school would like to ban any and all use of Line. Thank you very much.

We would also like to advise parents to, even at home, check your children’s mobile phones. If the Line application is present then we ask you to delete it.

Also starting now, students who are found using Line in or around the school will be notified of the ban. In order to prevent future trouble regarding Line, we ask for your cooperation in this matter.

This original message triggered a lot of discussion surrounding the “various incidents” that caused this school to outlaw the application on Twitter and other online forums.  Many netizens came out saying that it must have been cases of bullying.

This theory had been supported by many who claimed they were victims of bullying through Line. Some had cited incidents where mass snubs had occurred in group chats in which one person’s comment would cause all other participants to quit the session simultaneously.

The Huffington Post Japan had also reported on cases where Line had been used to harass students, with cases of repeated messages of “die”, along with “sticker shakedowns.”

Stickers are photos or drawings that can be used like emoticons when posting messages. Those are purchased from Naver (the developer of Line) but can also be bought as gifts for other users.

According to reports, bullies would intimidate classmates into gifting them with stickers. This theory is strengthened by an announcement made a week earlier by Naver which said that they would be discontinuing the sticker gift function on iPhone versions of Line at the request of Apple.

With bullying unofficially established as the cause of the school’s ban on Line, many have come out in defense of the app. With several other VoIP applications available people consider it unfair to only ban Line pointing out that Line doesn’t bully people, people bully people.

Source: Huffington Post Japan, Naver Matome, Line Blog (Japanese)
Line: English Site