Japan will begin imprisoning people for internet comments

Japan will begin imprisoning people for internet comments.

Posting “online insults” will be punished by up to a year in prison in Japan beginning Thursday, according to a new law approved earlier this summer.

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Individuals guilty of internet insults face fines of up to 300,000 yen (just over $2,200). Previously, the penalty was less than 30 days in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 yen ($75).

The law will be reviewed in three years to see if it has an influence on freedom of expression, as critics of the measure have expressed concern. Proponents said that it was vital to reduce cyberbullying in the country.

However, there are no clear criteria of what constitutes an insult, according to Seiho Cho, a criminal lawyer in Japan, who spoke to CNN after the bill was approved. According to the law, an insult is defined as disparaging someone without pointing out a specific truth about them, as opposed to defamation, which is defined as degrading someone while pointing out a specific fact about them. “At the moment, even if someone calls Japan’s leader an idiot, it may be classified as an insult under the updated law,” Cho added.

Following the suicide of reality television star Hana Kimura, who was subjected to online harassment, Japanese officials pushed for a crackdown on cyberbullying. Following her death, her mother advocated for stronger anti-cyberbullying regulations. Some evidence suggests a link between suicidal behavior and cyberbullying, while most studies have focused on children and teenagers.

In the United Kingdom, there are rules that make “grossly obscene” public communications illegal, and people have been jailed and penalized for tweeting. Its policy language is likewise vague, and judges assess what constitutes “grossly” offensive behavior on a case-by-case basis.

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