Japan’s parliament passed new legislation on Monday that will make “online insults” punishable by up to one year in jail.
The legislation is set to take effect later this summer. Under the new legislation, those convicted of making online insults can be punished by up to one year in jail or be fined 300,000 yen ($2,200), CNN reported.
In the past, offenders faced fewer than 30 days of detention and a fine of 10,000 yen, or $75. The new legislation will also extend the statute of limitations from one year to three years.
The Japan Times reported that the legislation comes two years after Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old wrestler and star of Netflix’s reality show “Terrace House,” died by suicide. The Japan Times reported that Kimura had received multiple hateful online messages before her death.
Two men who posted online insults about Kimura before her death were each fined 9,000 yen last year. Her mother, Kyoko, said she pushed to strengthen the law on cyberbullying because she found the penalties insufficient.
“I wanted people to know that this is a crime,” she said at a news conference Monday after the legislation was passed. But she added that if social media receives all the blame for abusive behavior, “nothing will change.”
“The issue is how we think, “[Social media] is like a mirror that reflects the minds of those who use it,” she went onto say.
Whilst the law also covers threats made offline, those are less likely to be subject to the tougher penalties because they are disseminated to fewer people, said Ryuichi Nozaki, a senior partner at the law firm Atsumi & Sakai in Tokyo.
Intensifying Japan’s bullying problem is a stigma around mental health issues, said Vickie Skorji, director of Tell Lifeline, a crisis hotline in Japan. “A stricter sentence by itself is not an answer, but it’s a beginning of conversation and a beginning of an attitude change,” she said in a video interview.
Opponents of the legislation, as well as some legal experts, have argued it could have a chilling effect on the news media or criticism of public figures.
“The definition of insultation is not clear,” Sanae Fujita, a fellow at the Human Rights Center at the University of Essex in England, said in an email. “Therefore, there is a risk of the abuse of this blanket clause.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNN
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