Insulting someone online could land an individual in Japan a one-year prison term under an amendment to the country’s penal code enacted on Thursday morning. Following the apparent suicide of Hana Kimura and a paltry for one of the men accused of bullying the Terrace House star in 2020, government officials began a review of Japan’s cyberbullying laws. Under the previous version of the country’s penal code, the punishment for posting online insults was a fine of ¥10,000 or less and fewer than 30 days in prison. Now, the law allows for financial penalties of up to ¥300,000 or about $2,200.
Despite pressure from the public on the government to tackle cyberbullying, the bill that introduced the amendment was controversial. CNN it only passed after Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party added a provision that calls on the government to review the law in three years to examine its impact on freedom of expression. As , there are also concerns the law isn’t specific enough about what counts as an insult.
The country’s penal code defines insults as an effort to demean someone without referencing specific facts about them – defamation, by contrast, includes reference to specific traits. “There needs to be a guideline that makes a distinction on what qualifies as an insult,” Seiho Cho, a criminal lawyer in Japan, told CNN. “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.”