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Japan Government Tightens Penalties For Cyberbullying

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Offenders can be convicted for up to a year in prison, or pay a fine of up to 300,000 yen

The Japan Diet passed a revision on its penal code on Monday tightening penalties for online insults and cyberbullying. After the law takes effect later this summer, offenders can be convicted for up to a year in prison, or pay a fine of up to 300,000 yen (approximately US$2,200). Prison labor will not be compulsory.

The previous punishment was detention for fewer than 30 days and a fine of up to 10,000 yen (US$75).

The Upper House passed the legislation with majority support from both the ruling and opposition parties. Nevertheless, the legislation did face criticism on the basis that it could restrict freedom of speech and public criticism of those in power. The law will be re-examined in three years to determine whether it causes negative impacts on freedom of speech.

Under the law, online insults are distinct from defamation. According to a Ministry of Justice spokesperson, insults are defined as "publicly demeaning someone's social standing without referring to specific facts about them or a specific action." Defamation refers to injuring another's reputation by referring to false information.

The issue of online harassment gained national attention in 2020 after the death of wrestler and reality TV star Hana Kimura to suicide. Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has engaged in information campaigns. Private businesses, including Bushiroad and NIJISANJI, have also launched anti-harassment initiatives in the wake of the tragic incident.

Sources: NHK World-Japan, CNN

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