Japan’s Cyberbullying Laws Include Fines of More Than $3,000 and up to a Year in Jail

Japan’s Cyberbullying Laws Include Fines of More Than $3,000 and up to a Year in Jail
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Japan has introduced massive fines and even jail time for cyberbullying.

Under the new laws, which went into power this morning following a revision of the Japanese Penal Code (after being passed on June 13), include 300,000 yen fines (about $3,250 in Australia) and up to a year of jail time. This comes by way of Kyodo News.

Previously, the penalty was detention for less than 30 days, or a fine of less than 10,000 yen (about $108.31 in Australia). The statute of limitations (aka, the time from the incident occurring to the latest time that you can pursue legal action over it) has also been extended from one year to three years.

That’s quite the increase on all fronts, truly. In Australia, the eSafety Commissioner handles reported instances of cyberbullying and if it deems it serious enough, eSafety can ask the platform/app/site to remove the harmful content. Using the internet to threaten someone in a menacing or threatening way in Australia could lead to a maximum three year jail sentence.

But these new laws in Japan directly address cyberbullying, gaining traction after Hana Kimura, a member of Netflix reality show Terrace House, took their own life in May 2020. Episodes of the reality show were suspended in Japan and two men were fined for posting insults about Kimura online. They each were fined 9,000 yen (about $97.42 in Australia).

A supplementary provision to the new laws include a three year review, to determine if the new laws restrict free speech.

Additionally, as The Verge points out, there’s no clear definition of what counts as an insult as far as the law is concerned, leaning in on it being more about demeaning someone without facts, while not necessarily being the same thing as defamation. The opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, argued that the new laws could stifle legitimate criticism of public figures.

Cyberbullying is a serious problem: if you grew up on the internet, using social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of the worst of it. But it’s interesting that we’re now starting to see legislation come into effect around the world to combat online insults that could have a massive and terrible impact on someone’s life.

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