In the wake of Hana Kimura’s tragic death in 2020, a new law targeting online insults has passed in Japan.
Hana Kimura tragically passed away at the age of 22 on May 23, 2020. The STARDOM standout also starred as part of the Japanese Netflix reality series Terrace House, which saw her receive online threats and bullying following a controversial episode. Prior to her death by suicide, she tweeted about the effect the online backlash had on her, saying she said that she received at least a hundred messages a day. Other Terrace House stars have since come forward and confirmed that they also received online abuse.
Hana Kimura’s mother Kyoko Kimura, also a former professional wrestler, has been an adamant advocate for stronger penalties for cyberbullying in the wake of her daughter’s death. She has also organized multiple tribute shows to raise awareness and show love for Hana Kimura.
According to CNN, on June 13th, the Japanese Parliament passed legislation that punishes “online insults” with possible imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of 300,000 yen (about $2200 US). This marks a huge increase from existing punishment of fewer than thirty days imprisonment and fines of up to 10,000 yen (the equivalent of about $75 US).
The CNN report details “insults” as the following:
“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, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice. The crime is different to defamation, defined as publicly demeaning someone while pointing to specific facts.”
However, the law has drawn criticism from those who believe it could limit free speech. It was only passed after a provision was added to declare that it be re-examined after three years to determine the effect it had on free speech, but some are still critical and want further clarification on what exactly constitutes an insult, especially when it comes to criticism of political figures.
Japan-based criminal lawyer Seiho Cho had this to say:
“There needs to be a guideline that makes a distinction on what qualifies as an insult. 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.”
In December of 2020, a man in his 20’s was arrested as he was believed to have contributed many egregious posts toward Hana Kimura prior to her untimely passing.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health crisis, help can be found at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US or through Samaritans in the UK. Worldwide help is also available through Befrienders Worldwide.