Japan Makes Cyberbullying, Online Insults Punishable by 1 Year in Jail

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In order to tackle cyberbullying, a prison term of up to one year and other tougher penalties for online insults came into effect on Thursday in Japan.

According to Japan Times, the revised Penal Code raised the fine for online insults to up to JPY 300,000 ($2,200). This is a significant increase from the previous punishments of detention for fewer than 30 days and a fine of up to JPY 10,000 ($75).

The statute of limitations for insults has also been extended from one year to three years, the outlet reported.

Japan took a tougher stance on online insults after Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old professional wrestler and cast member on the popular Netflix reality show ‘Terrace House’, allegedly killed herself in May 2020 after receiving several hateful messages on social media.

The news of her suicide had triggered grief and shockwave nationwide, with several residents pointing to online abuse she had received from internet users in the months leading up to her death.

Following her demise, two men in Osaka and Fukui prefectures were fined JPY 9,000 ($66) each for insults posted about Ms. Kimura before her death. But later Japanese residents expressed concern the penalties were too light, which then led to the push for legal changes.

On June 13, the bill for tougher penalties was passed at an Upper House plenary session after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party reached an agreement with the Constitutional Democratic Party and others. They all agreed that a supplementary provision, stipulating that a review will be conducted within three years of its enactment in order to determine if it unfairly restricts free speech, would be added.

According to Japan Times, the country’s Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa on Tuesday stated that implementing stronger punishments was significant as it demonstrates the legal assessment that cyberbullying is a crime that should be severely dealt with, and acts as a deterrent. He even went on to say that the move would not act as an unjustified restriction on freedom of expression.




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