You could go to jail for name calling online as Japan outlaws Internet insults

Be careful who you insult on the Internet—it could land you a year in a Japanese prison, thanks to strict new laws against online trolling in the country.

Following the death of 22-year-old wrestler Hana Kimura, who took her own life in 2020 after sharing images of self-harm and hateful comments she received online, the Japanese government has severely upped the penalties for Internet insults.

Previously, insulting someone on the Internet could get you 30 days in jail or a fine of 10,000 yen (£62). Now, you could spend a year behind bars and face a fine of as much as 300,000 yen (£1,866).

The law has been given a 'sunset clause' or expiry date of three years, as the government attempts to measure its effect on free speech.

Other countries typically place responsibility for online hate on the web platforms (like Facebook or Instagram) that host the comments, which are often required to take them down.

Hana Kimura was a popular female Japanese wrestler and reality star. When she died, wrestling commentators called her "one of the most talented female wrestlers in the world".

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Three men were investigated for cyberbullying after her death, with one paying around £10,000 to her family in damages.

Another man in his 30s was arrested for online abuse he sent to Kimura. He apologised during police questioning, saying: "Many hateful messages had been posted, and I followed suit. I'm sorry."

He added that he was "simply joining in with what he saw others doing on her site."

For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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