Under an amendment to the country’s penal code, which will take effect this summer, criminals convicted of online insults can be jailed for up to one year or fined 300,000 yen (about $2,200).
This is a significant increase from existing penalties of less than 30 days’ detention and a fine of up to 10,000 yen ($75).
The bill caused controversy in the country, opponents argued that it could interfere with freedom of speech and criticism of those in power. However, supporters have said that stronger legislation is needed to combat cyberbullying and online harassment.
It was passed only after a provision was added requiring the law to be reviewed three years after it came into force to assess its impact on freedom of expression.
Under the Japanese Penal Code, insult is defined as the public humiliation of someone’s social position without reference to specific facts about them or a specific act, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice. Crime is distinct from defamation, defined as the public humiliation of someone with specific facts.
Both are punishable by law.
Death of Hana Kimura
Kimura, 22, best known for her role in the Netflix show Terrace House, committed suicide in 2020. The news caused grief and shock across the country, with many pointing to the online abuse she had received from social media users in previous months. up until her death.
Other actors shared their experiences of online violence.
Shortly after her death, senior Japanese officials drew attention to the dangers of cyberbullying and promised to expedite government discussions on relevant legislation.
Kimura’s mother, former professional wrestler Kyoko Kimura, campaigned for tougher anti-cyberbullying laws after her daughter’s death and created a non-profit organization called “Remember Hana” to raise awareness about cyberbullying.
Kyoko held a press conference after Parliament announced its decision on Monday praising the new law.
“I want people to know that cyberbullying is a crime,” she said, adding that she hoped the amendment would lead to more detailed legislation.