In Japan, an online insult can now land you in jail for up to a year

People in Japan hurling "online insults" will now be thrown into jail for up to a year, or fined 300,000 yen (about $2,200), according to CNN. The new law, passed yesterday, was triggered when wrestler and Terrace House television star, Hana Kimura, committed suicide in 2020 after enduring months of daily online abuse.

But what constitutes an "insult" isn't clear, nor is it clear if the law pertains to an insult made toward a politician.

From CNN:

The bill proved controversial in the country, with opponents arguing it could impede free speech and criticism of those in power. However, supporters said the tougher legislation was needed to crack down on cyberbullying and online harassment. …

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. …

Seiho Cho, a Japan-based criminal lawyer, warned that the revised law gave no classification of what constitutes an insult.

"There needs to be a guideline that makes a distinction on what qualifies as an insult," Cho said. "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."

The law will take effect later this summer and will be re-examined in three years "to gauge its impact on freedom of expression." It's not clear what determines whether the bully has to spend time behind bars or write a fat check without jail time.