This week, a Japanese law went into effect making it a jailable offense to be a jerk on the Internet.
As reported by The Japan Times, the legislation, passed in June, strengthens the country’s punishment for “online insults.” According to CNN, “Under Japan’s penal code, insults are defined as publicly demeaning someone’s social standing without referring to specific facts about them or a specific action…The crime is different to defamation, defined as publicly demeaning someone while pointing to specific facts.”
Previously, the penalty for online offensiveness was either a fine of less than ¥10,000 (about $73 USD) or fewer than 30 days in prison. Under the new law, which went into effect Thursday, the penalties increased to as much as a year in prison and a fine of up to ¥300,000 (about $2,200 USD). It also extended the statute of limitations from one year to three.
A push for the law came in 2020, when Japanese wrestler and reality TV star Hana Kimura committed suicide after allegedly receiving abusive messages on social media. The bill briefly stalled over concerns that it would stifle legitimate criticism of politicians. Finally, the legislature reached a compromise, inserting a provision requiring that “a review will be conducted within three years…to determine if it unfairly restricts free speech,” per The Japan Times.