Japan Passes New Anti-Cyberbullying Law

Online harassment is now punishable with jail time or fines.

Online harassment is now punishable with jail time or fines.

Yesterday, Japan’s parliament passed new legislation that imposes stiffer penalties on acts of online harassment and cyberbullying. When this new amendment to the country’s penal code goes into effect later this summer, those found guilty of deliberate cyberbullying efforts could face either a year in prison or up to 300,000 yen in fines (approx. $2,200 USD).

The impetus of this new law was the suicide of professional wrestler and reality television star Hana Kimura. Kimura, who starred in the Netflix series Terrace House, took her own life in 2020 due to extensive online harassment. Kimura’s mother organized a nonprofit organization to raise awareness about cyberbullying and campaigned for more stringent laws.

The new law has been met with a mixed response, with many expressing concern that these penalties will severely impact free speech and the ability to be critical of authority figures. Criminal lawyer Seiho Cho warned that the law is not nearly clear enough on what constitutes harassment.

“There needs to be a guideline that makes a distinction on what qualifies as an insult,” Cho said. “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.”

The law does include a provision requiring it to undergo stringent examination in three years’ time in order to determine any potentially dangerous effects on free speech rights.

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