A teenage prankster in Japan has been sued for $480,000 after a video of him toying with restaurant food and utensils at a sushi fast food restaurant went viral. In the video, the prankster could be seen licking the spout of a communal soy sauce bottle and dipping his finger into a piece of sushi belonging to another prospective customer as it went past the conveyer-belt. He was also licking utensils at a sushi fast food.
Despite an apology from the prankster, Food & Life Cos., the parent company of Akindo Sushiro, the popular Japanese food chain where the incident occurred, filed a police report and now a suit with the Osaka District Court, seeking damages.
Since the incident – tagged #SushiTerrorism on social media – occurred in January, the company says that it has experienced a drop in sales and foot traffic, including its stock prices plummeting by 4.8% at the time.
The incident, which happened at a Sushiro outlet in Japan’s central city of Gifu, immediately sparked outrage across the country all through February. The incident also raises questions about the age of seeming unfettered pranks that has led to the rise of a new brand of influencer culture popular on TikTok.
Across the world, famous TikTokers and YouTubers have been undertaking at times jarring acts to see which one sticks and finds favour among their fan base.
Last month in Nigeria, Naija Nicki went viral for videos where she asked random men for financial favour in exchange for sex with her in return. In one famous video, she told a male trader she would pay for a pair of sandals with sex and watched him make a mockery of himself as her camera team hid in the corner taping the entire incident. She has since owned the format, making various interactions of videos with similar storylines.
Other pranksters include Z Fancy who has been more daring with his videos offering strangers money and then pretending to be a ritualist.
Despite the outrage that followed the initial #SushiTerrorism incident, there has been a wave of copycat incidents shortly after the video, spreading across various social media platforms, making other Sushi chains alert.
Through his lawyers, the prankster has rejected the claim that his prank is in any way responsible for the decline in sales and foot traffic at Suchiro, arguing that the court should dismiss the complaint entirely. Though he admitted to the act and said he regrets his actions, he also said that “the decline in customers could be attributed to fierce competition in the restaurant industry.”
But the ripple effect of the incident has created new problems for food chains in Japan as they struggle to clamp down on the trends of customers recording themselves committing unhygienic acts with the hopes of going viral.
According to Bloomberg, “two other major conveyor belt sushi chains, Zensho Holdings Co.-owned Hamasushi and Kura Sushi Inc., said in February that they were considering methods such as deploying artificial intelligence and cameras to thwart potential pranksters.”
Already, Sushiro has added “acrylic screens at some outlets to deter tampering on its conveyor belts, and said it would provide fresh seasonings and cutlery to those who request it, the costs for which it is seeking recompense from the teen,” Bloomberg adds.
While some pranksters have found themselves in serious problems with the wrong subject, including being assaulted sometimes, this incident in Japan represents one of the rare instances that the prankster has faced immense backlash and been rejected for what would otherwise have been ignored as mere comedy.
The copycat incidents also underscore the problems of the outrage mechanisation of powerful social media companies. The algorithms continue to bobble the videos to the top and feed users because they are programmed to keep them on the app for as long as possible.
But this is also happening at a time when governments across the world are looking to rein in the way social media companies have absorbed themselves from responsibility for the content posted on their platform. In Kenya, Facebook’s parent company, Meta has been facing litigations over how it treated some of its content moderators.
In the West, the European Union has moved to fine Meta $1.3 billion over privacy violations. In the US some lawmakers are working on a bill that will make social media companies responsible for all the content on their platform.
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!