How many instances have you faced or witnessed involving an online bully? You’d likely have encountered a heated Twitter rant or a polarizing online argument between the two factions. However, posting “online insults” will now be a punishable offense with up to a year in prison in Japan.
Although the law was passed earlier this summer, it takes effect starting this Thursday. According to a story from the Verge, those found guilty of online insults may be penalized up to 300,000 yen (a little more than $2,200). Before this, the penalty was up to 10,000 yen ($75) and less than 30 days in jail.
Online insults to be punishable by Japan
To ascertain whether the law is having an effect on freedom of expression, which is an agonizing thought expressed by the bill’s opponents. However, supporters argued that it was essential to reduce cyberbullying nationwide.
As per CNN, the law was only approved after a clause was added requiring a three-year review of the law’s effectiveness to assess its effects on free speech. Nevertheless, the question arises what is defined as an online insult?
A representative for the Ministry of Justice described what an online insult is; According to the penal code of Japan, insults are defined as openly disparaging someone’s social position without referring to certain facts about them or a particular action.
The offense is distinct from defamation, defined as publicly disparaging someone while citing specific facts, CNN reported. Following the suicide of reality TV star Hana Kimura, who had experienced online harassment, Japanese authorities pushed for a crackdown on cyberbullying. Upon her mother’s passing, she advocated for more anti-cyberbullying laws.
“There needs to be a guideline that makes a distinction on what qualifies as an insult,” Shei Cho, a Japan-based criminal lawyer, said. He added, “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.“
Hopefully, cyberbullying gets toned down in the nation after the law comes into effect. Since this is a Global issue, different countries should soon come up with an impactful solution. What do you think about Japan’s law against online insults? Let us know in the comments.