Japanese lawmakers have agreed to make “online insults” punishable by imprisonment by one year, legislation that was prompted by the suicide of a celebrity who had faced cyberbullying and abuse over social media. Professional wrestler and Netflix star Hana Kimura (Terra House) was only 22 when she took her life in 2020, an event that prompted Japanese officials to look closer into the dangers of cyberbullying and to enact new rules against online harassment. The law isn’t set to take effect until later this summer, but it has already stirred controversy among critics, some of which are arguing that it could impede free speech.
“There needs to be a guideline that makes a distinction on what qualifies as an insult,” Seiho Cho, a Japan-based criminal lawyer, noted due to the law not adequately classifying what constitutes as an insult. “For example, at the moment, even if someone calls the leader of Japan an idiot, then maybe under the revised law that could be classed as an insult.”
Under the amendment to the country's penal code offenders convicted of online insults can be jailed for up to one year, or fined 300,000 yen (about $2,200) https://t.co/DXd5gZbYXR— CNN International (@cnni) June 14, 2022
Under the amendment to the country’s penal code — set to take effect later this summer — offenders convicted of online insults can be jailed for up to one year, or fined 300,000 yen (about $2,200).
It’s a significant increase from the existing punishments of detention for fewer than 30 days and a fine of up to 10,000 yen ($75).
Under Japan’s penal code, insults are defined as publicly demeaning someone’s social standing without referring to specific facts about them or a specific action, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice. The crime is different to defamation, defined as publicly demeaning someone while pointing to specific facts.