In Japan, online insults were previously punishable by fines of up to ¥10,000 ($75) and up to 30 days in prison. Starting from Thursday, a new law will come into force in Japan, which provides for a year in prison and/or a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,200) for such a violation.
Despite the significant support for the law, because it helps fight cyberbullying, it also has its critics. So after three years, the law will be reviewed to determine how much it affects freedom of expression.
The fight against cyberbullying in Japan began to gain momentum after the suicide of the star of the reality show Hana Kimura, who was bullied online. After that, her mother insisted on strengthening the policy to deal with such cases. Also, some studies have found a certain connection between suicidal behavior and cyberbullying, although they were more related to children and adolescents.
It is noted that the law does not clearly define what is considered an insult. Seiho Cho, a criminal lawyer, commented on the law after it was passed for CNN. The law states that an insult means humiliating someone without a specific fact about them. But defamation is already classified as humiliating someone with reference to a specific fact about them.
“Now if someone calls the leader of Japan an idiot, then maybe under the revised law that could be classed as an insult,” Cho said.
The United Kingdom also has similar laws criminalizing “highly offensive” public communications. There are cases of arrests and fines for tweets. But its wording is also ambiguous, so each individual case is considered and classified on a case-by-case basis.