March 31, 2021
A man has been fined 9,000 yen ($80; £59) over online abuse directed at a Japanese reality star who took her own life last year, said prosecutors.
Before she died, Hana Kimura, 22, had written a series of social media posts implying she had been cyberbullied.
Reports say the man posted messages on her social media account saying she had an “awful personality”, and asking “when will you die?”
The reality show, Terrace House, was cancelled after her death in May.
Terrace House, co-produced by Japan’s FujiTV and distributed by Netflix, was popular amongst global audiences before its cancellation.
The unscripted reality show follows six young people who live together in one house in Japan but generally go about their daily lives.
It had in recent years gained a huge following for its authentic interactions between cast members and its relative lack of drama.
Kimura who joined Terrace House last September, was one of six members on the show’s latest season, Tokyo 2019-2020.
She is said to have been the target of hundreds of abusive tweets from fans and critics on a daily basis.
Local media reports say this abuse got worse after a particular episode – only screened in Japan – which saw her getting into an altercation with a roommate.
Before her death, she reportedly posted images of self harm on Twitter along with messages that read: “I don’t want to be a human anymore. It was a life I wanted to be loved. Thank you everyone, I love you. Bye.”
Reports quoting police said the man, who has not been named, had posted increasingly abusive messages on her social media account.
He has been charged with the crime of “insults”. Under Japanese law, the maximum penalty that can be imposed under this charge is 9,999 yen.
There is a more serious charge of “defamation”, under which an individual could be fined up to 500,000 yen. It is not clear why the lighter sentence was applied in this situation.
The ruling prompted comments on social media that the punishment was too light.
“[This charge] is too lenient,” said one comment on Twitter, whereas another called the law “wrong”.
In the wake of her death, Japan’s communications ministry began looking into measures to make it easier for targets of online slander to obtain information on their attackers, according to a Japan Times report.