Japan has criminalized online insults in the wake of a reality star’s suicide.
Cyberbullying is now punishable by up to a year in prison, according to a new law passed by the Japanese Parliament. The statute of limitations also increased, from one year to three, and the fine expanded to a maximum of 300,000 yen, about $2,220.
The move, which has raised concerns about free speech, was in response to the suicide of Hana Kimura, a professional wrestler and reality star who took her own life in 2020 at age 22 after being bullied online.
Online harassment followed her appearance on “Terrace House,” a reality show that aired on Japan’s Fuji TV and Netflix. It was about three men and three women temporarily sharing a house in Tokyo.
A stream of hateful, vicious messages flooded onto social media after a panned performance in one episode, as many as a hundred a day. The Associated Press reported. After her death, the show was canceled.
Two men were prosecuted for posting online insults and fined 9,000 yen last year. Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, felt the punishment was not enough.
The crime of “insultation” was previously penalized with up to 30 days’ detention or a fine of 10,000 yen or less, about $75, according to NBC News.
Offline insults and bullying are also covered, but since fewer people get wind of them, the penalty is lower, Ryuichi Nozaki, a senior partner at the law firm Atsumi & Sakai in Tokyo, told NBC News.
Concerns about a dampening effect on free speech were addressed with a clause allowing for outside experts to study its impact in three years.
The law is set to take effect later this year.
With News Wire Services