Modern idol scandals: Social Media, forever a problem.

Back when I started following idols in the 2000s, the main source for spicy scandals were newspapers and magazines, with Bunshun and Friday being the most popular outlets. This was such a common thing that the term „getting Friday’d“ became somewhat of a meme among English speaking fan groups. Friday, for example, was responsible for revealing the relationships of Yaguchi Mari and Fujimoto Miki while being members of Morning Musume, as well as publishing the pictures that showed Kago Ai smoking.

Friday and Bunshun still have their fair share of gossip nowadays, but they suffer from the same fate all print media shares: Being too slow in a fast-paced time. Even an online article needs time to be written, edited and illustrated. And since young people nowadays all use some kind of internet platform, a new scandal circulation tool came to life: Social Media.

Of course, candid photography has been shared on image boards before. 2ch (or 5ch as it is called nowadays) was always a bit more hidden, the „dirty“ part of the internet. Nobody would have admitted that they got the latest idol news from 2ch. It is, however, different with Twitter and Instagram.

The latest scandals in Hello! Project are closely tied to these internet platforms.

In late summer 2020 a Twitter account popped out of nowhere, dumping a few screenshots from an Instagram account, and got soon deleted again – not before the screenshots have been seen and shared on before mentioned imageboards, though. The aforementioned Instagram account allegedly was a private account of Tsubaki Factory’s sub-leader Ogata Risa. Members are not allowed to have a private Social Media account, but considering that Instagram is incredibly popular with teenagers and young adults in Japan nobody would have bat an eye at that. The spicy detail was the content that was posted: Ogata settled a score with work and her coworkers, talked about having a boyfriend and mentioned partying during Corona times. Unfortunately she not only mentioned names (including one of a manager, which is a detail not many fans would have known), she also posted pictures of herself that haven’t been published elsewhere yet. If this was a set up, how did the person behind the account get these new pictures? It was possible that they fell into circulation after Ogata sent them to a circle of close friends via a messaging service like Line – which is not forbidden according to Up-Front’s work contracts. In fact, many fans thought these screenshots were fake – until Hello! Project made a public announcement that it was indeed Ogata’s account, she had posted all those things herself and decided to go on hiatus to reflect on her actions.

One reason why the authenticity of the pictures was questioned comes from an event from earlier this year. A person on Instagram, apparently a fan/wota of Hello! Project, posted about setlists, special guests and secret events – before these things happened. They turned out to be true. It came to light that said fan became friends with Oota Haruka, a young member of ANGERME. To prove this statement she posted a picture of a sleeping Oota. Oota had indeed told her about these things.

To be fair, this scandal could have happened on 2ch/5ch as well. Instagram however has a wider range than the image boards and proves to be a better snow ball mechanism. Oota went on hiatus from ANGERME and left the group in early October 2020.

One last example is from a situation a few years ago: The Kobushigeddon. Once again, someone created a Twitter account to dump pictures and deleted it shortly after. Also once again, this could have easily been posted on 2ch/5ch. Why did the person decide to use Twitter?

In my opinion, public Social Media (Instagram, Twitter, earlier also Facebook, Mixi and the like) are much more comfortable to use. 2ch/5ch is a bit difficult to navigate, and the atmosphere is pretty rough (let’s just say you need a thick skin if you actively communicate there). On top of that it also has the reputation of being „dirty“, being the secret life of wota community (think of 4chan as a Western sister site). Many people wouldn’t visit this platform. Twitter and Instagram, on the other hand, are used by a large group of fans. Using these platforms tells us something about the leaker – someone who might not be too internet savvy, but still a communicative gossip.

One spicy detail should also not be forgotten: Up-Front has official accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Posting there also bears the risk of it seeing by the actual, real agency – but maybe that’s also the leaker’s goal. They post something to take action, to force the agency to act. Sometimes it works, with the scandals mentioned above. Often enough however rumours are just ignored, mostly smaller boyfriend rumours.

Image boards have always been a nidus for rumours, but they were often ignored. Social Media platforms however are more open, a lot of people who would not dig up dirt on an idol can see the rumours posted (and re-posted) on it – as well as the agency.

It seems like Social Media has taken the place of news outlets, as it beats them in spontaneity and user friendliness.

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