A legendary video game developer has threatened to sue over hoax posts portraying him as Shinzo Abe’s killer.
Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima was linked to the shooting of Japan’s former Prime Minister in pictures on website 4chan. The images were shared by a French politician and reportedly broadcast by Greek and Iranian news outlets.
Kojima Productions said it “strongly condemns the spread of fake news and rumours that convey false information”. The 4chan post used a photo of Kojima and falsely labelled him as a “left-wing extremist” with a criminal record.
It also included a picture of him wearing a type of Ushanka, or fur hat, worn by soldiers in communist Russia, and another of him standing next to a picture of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Screenshots on social media showed Damien Rieu, a French politician associated with the country’s nationalist movement, had tweeted out images of Kojima with text translated to: “The far-left kills”. He has since deleted his tweet and issued an apology to Kojima, saying he “naively took a joke for information” and “was wrong not to check before sharing”.
In response, the game director’s company tweeted a statement warning it would consider legal action over the spread of false information. Mr Abe died last Friday after he was shot with a homemade gun. Police say the suspect, named as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, has admitted the killing. In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, details are often murky and emotions run high. In the absence of reliable information, misleading claims fill the gap, and Mr Abe’s assassination wasn’t an exception.
False claims that the assassination was staged, that Mr Abe wasn’t bleeding in pictures, that the man arrested was not the real suspect, and that he was Korean or Chinese, were posted on Japanese social media. But in other parts of the world, the focus was on Mr Kojima and a play on a racist trope about Asians. Arguably the biggest hub of internet subculture, 4chan has been responsible for many false claims and memes.
This isn’t the first time Mr Kojima has been the target of online misinformation. Posts falsely accusing him of “aborting and mummifying a baby” went viral just a few weeks ago in the context of abortion debate in the US.