Kimura’s death by suicide has triggered the Japanese parliament to come up with
a new law against cyberbullying. Twenty-two-year-old Kimura, who was also a
reality television star famous for her role in Netflix’s “Terrace House,” died
by suicide in 2020. Since then, there have been calls for stringent legislation
against online abuse. Her death was preceded by a wave of trolling directed her
The new law makes
online abuse punishable by a year-long jail term along with a fine of 300,000
yen (around $2,200). This replaces an earlier punitive action that had the
provision of a 30-day jail term along with a fine of 10,000 yen ($75).
Passed by the
Japanese parliament recently, the new legislation isn’t without its critics.
Many feel that such a heightened punishment for online abuse may stifle free
speech and disallow criticism of those in power. The law contains a provision
for review after three years to measure the impact of the legislation on free
Seiho Cho, a
Japan-based criminal lawyer who spoke to CNN, said there needs to be 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.”
Japan’s penal code
contains this distinction in a limited manner. An insult is defined as publicly
demeaning someone’s social standing without referring to specific facts about
them or a specific action. This is different from defamation which contains
reference to a specific fact or action.
legislation tends to deal strictly with people abusing others on social media. Hana
Kimura, whose death made the Japanese parliament rethink the nation’s laws
surrounding online abuse, faced a wave of insults while her show “Terrace House”
was on air on Japan’s Fuji TV.
The premise of reality
television show “Terrace House” was three men and two women living together in
a shared house in Tokyo, Japan’s capital. Her performance in the show triggered
a wave of attack against her on social media. Prior to her suicide, Kimura had
said that she received hundreds of insults every day. Following her death, Fuji
TV cancelled the airing of the remaining show.
At least two
people were convicted for defaming Kimura. However, the court-ordered fine of
9,000 yen ($66) was deemed to be too little and caused an outrage. Hana Kimura’s
mother, Kyoko, also a famous wrestler, testified before the Japanese parliament
saying she has been receiving insults and has been accused of using her
daughter’s name to make money.