After the suicide of a reality TV contestant, Japan is finally taking concrete action against cyberbullying.
Japan’s parliament this week passed a law making cyberbullying and online insults punishable by stiff penalties. The historic decision follows the suicide of a reality TV candidate who had repeatedly been the victim of harassment on social networks. While the country has so far provided for sentences of less than 30 days and a fine of 10,000 yen (€70), the Japanese archipelago has just revised the penalty upwards.
Under a new amendment passed by the country, those convicted of cyberstalking will now face up to 300,000 yen fine (2100€), and one year imprisonment. Controversial, the text should come into force later this summer, and is already a sign of considerable progress, while violent behavior online often struggles to find an echo with justice.
Who is Hana Kimura?
Reality TV star in Japan, Hana Kimura was 22 when she committed suicide in 2020. In her country but also internationally, the young woman was famous for having participated in the Netflix reality series Terrace House. Regularly the victim of harassment on social networks, the death of Hana Kimura had raised a wave of emotion in Japan, to the point of raising many similar testimonies from known or anonymous Internet users.
Shortly after his death, the Japanese government promised to seriously address the danger of cyberbullying. Asked by local media, the mother of the victim believes that things have not gone far enough: “I want people to understand that cyberbullying is a crime“. She now hopes that the amendment will lead to a stricter text.
Why is the text so controversial?
However, the law is not frankly unanimous in Japan. According to its detractors, it could constitute a obstruction of freedom of expression, particularly in the context of criticism of public figures or people in power. The text was finally adopted, but will have to be re-examined in three years, in order to assess its impact.