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Prison time for ‘online insults’: Japan criminalizes cyberbullying

Prison time for ‘online insults’: Japan criminalizes cyberbullying
Prison time for ‘online insults’: Japan criminalizes cyberbullying
Written by Harry Johnson

Japanese lawmakers passed a new amendment to the country’s penal code, hardening punishment for the people found guilty of “online insults.” 

Under the new law set to take effect later this summer, “online insults” can result in a fine of 300,000 yen ($2,245) or a prison sentence of up to one year for the person convicted of the offense. The new amendment also extends the statute of limitations from one to three years.

Prior to the passage of the new legislation, people found guilty of cyberbullying faced only a mere 10,000 yen ($75) fine, or less than 30 days in the clink.

Under the country’s penal code, insults are defined quite vaguely and understood as a public way to demean one’s social standing without bringing up concrete facts. The offense is different from defamation, which is effectively the same but must involve certain facts to be classified as such.

The toughened punishments for “online insults” come two years after the suicide of Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old reality TV star and pro-wrestler. Kimura killed herself in May 2020 after having been bullied online over her performance on Netflix’s ‘Terrace House’ show.

While the Kimura’s suicide drew international attention to Japan’s cyberbullying problems, two men found guilty of harassing Kimura online got away with just minor fines.

The new amendment to penal code is set to be assessed by legislators three years after it takes effect in order to determine whether it had any actual detrimental impact on freedom of expression, and to adjust it, if necessary.

Kimura’s mother, who had founded the organization ‘Remember Hana’ to raise cyberbullying awareness, praised the amendments to the penal code, and expressed hope that they would ultimately lead to a more detailed legislation to tackle the issue.

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About the author

Harry Johnson

Harry Johnson has been the assignment editor for eTurboNews for mroe than 20 years. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is originally from Europe. He enjoys writing and covering the news.

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