Japanese Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa said on Tuesday that the country is considering tougher prison sentences as part of cybercrime penalties.
According to Xinhua news agency, Kamikawa said at a press conference on Thursday that she would ask her advisory panel to review the plan to impose a prison term of up to one year or a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($2,726) for online insults and to extend the statute of limitations for three years.
Currently, the penalty is less than 30 days in jail or a fine of less than 10,000 yen, with a one-year statute of limitations.
According to Kamikawa: “Online insults cause a chain reaction of similar posts, which can result in irreversible human rights violations… As there is growing criticism of online abuse, we need to classify it as a crime that must be dealt with seriously and curtailed.”
In May 2020, Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old woman, was a professional wrestler and cast member of the popular Netflix reality series “Terrace House.”
She committed suicide as a result of a barrage of hateful messages on social media, in what was a well-publicized case of cyberbullying in Japan.
Two men found guilty in the case, however, were only fined 9,000 yen.
Since the law’s inception in 1907, insult provisions in Japan’s Penal Code have not been significantly revised.
In Japan, defamation, a similar concept involving an untrue statement referring to a specific action, could result in a prison term of up to three years or a fine of up to 500,000 yen.
However, it is not appropriate to include insults in this penalty.
Following Kimura’s death, Parliament passed legislation in April to make it easier for victims of cyberbullying to track down perpetrators.
With the legislation, which is expected to go into effect in the fall of next year, victims will be able to obtain information about harassers through a single court proceeding rather than going through at least two court proceedings, one for social media operators and the other for internet service providers, as is currently the case.