If you live or work in Japan and use the internet, you may want to be careful about your comments. They could land you in jail or cost you a fortune to buy back your freedom.
This is because Japan has passed a new law criminalizing online insults and cyberbullying. The new law went into effect on Thursday, July 7th, 2022.
Offenders could now face up to one year in prison or pay a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,000) if found guilty of bullying others online.
Previously, anyone convicted of online bullying could face up to 30 days in confinement or pay a fine of 10,000 yen ($75).
More about Japan’s new online insults law
The new online insults law is experimental and subject to review after three years. It comes in the wake of Hana Kimura’s death and subsequent protests by her mother, Kyoko Kimura.
The late wrestler and reality TV star was a victim of cyberbullying by viewers of the Terrace House show. She was found dead by apparent suicide following sustained online bullying.
Although the new law against cyberbullying clearly stipulates the punishment for offenders, it is rather vague about what constitutes an online insult or cyberbullying.
According to the online insults law, demeaning someone without specific facts about them constitutes an online insult.
On the other hand, demeaning someone with a specific fact you know about them is classified as defamation. Both crimes are now punishable by law.
There has been a pushback from certain quarters, describing the new online insults law as an attempt to stifle freedom of speech.
Cyberbullying: a growing problem
Several victims of bullying, online or offline, have admitted to contemplating suicide following sustained verbal attacks.
In 2019, Kelly Fraser, a popular Canadian Inuk pop singer committed suicide due to childhood traumas, racism, and persistent cyberbullying.
Also in 2019, South Korean actress, Goo Hara, died of suicide. This was a result of the backlash she received online following a sex tape with her ex-boyfriend.
Legislations are being pushed across the board to address the negative impacts of cyberbullying and keep young people safe from online bullies.
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