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WTF?! If you've ever posted something on a forum, social media, or pretty much anywhere on the internet, there's a good chance someone has thrown an insult in your direction. But imagine if the person dishing it out was jailed for up to a year for their behavior. Earlier this week, Japan's parliament passed a bill to make this scenario a reality.
Japan can already punish people convicted of "insultation" with a maximum of 30 days in prison or a fine under 10,000 yen (around $75). The amendment to the country's penal code, which will go into effect this summer, will increase the potential jail time to one year and the fine to 300,000 yen (about $2,200). Additionally, the statute of limitations on prosecution has been increased from the current one year to three years.
CNN writes that, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice, Japan's penal code defines insults as publicly demeaning someone's social standing without referring to specific facts about them or a specific action. That makes it different from defamation—also punishable under the law—which is defined as publicly demeaning someone while pointing to specific facts.
Lawyers warn the definition still doesn't explain what terms are considered insults that could be punishable under the law. There are also concerns over the legislation's impact on free speech—could someone be jailed for calling a politician an idiot? As such, the law was only passed after a provision was added that it would be re-examined every three years to determine its impact on freedom of expression.
The law comes after 22-year-old reality television star Hana Kimura died by suicide in 2020. The professional wrestler had been subject to online abuse, and her death has lead to calls for harsher punishments for cyberbullying.
Two men were each fined 9,000 yen (~$67) last year for posting online insults about Kimura before her death. Kimura's mother, former professional wrestler Kyoko Kimura, said the punishments were too lenient—most of the Japanese public agree with her.
"I want people to know that cyberbullying is a crime," said Kyoko Kimura.
Masthead credit: Kaitlyn Baker