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Japan to work on regulations over cyberbullying after wrestler Hana Kimura's death

The National Diet building (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Japan's ruling and opposition parties agreed on May 25 to start deliberations on implementing rules over online abuse following the death of a professional wrestler who had been troubled by offensive comments on social media.

The death of Hana Kimura, 22, who appeared in the popular reality show "Terrace House," has sparked online debate as she had been the target of attacks on social media by anonymous users.

Hiroshi Moriyama, Diet affairs chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and his counterpart of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Jun Azumi had a meeting on May 25. Azumi asked Moriyama to hold discussions over the matter among both ruling and opposition blocs, saying, "Some kind of rules are necessary against heartless name-calling and abusive actions (online) that hurt people." Moriyama responded, "It's regrettable and I wonder if anything could have been done to save her. What we do as the legislative body of the government (in this issue) is important."

These and other parties are likely to consider the development of legal systems, under which information-technology firms that provide social media services will be held accountable for online abuse to some extent and the abusers will face penalties, among other possible stipulations, while paying attention to freedom of speech guaranteed under the Japanese Constitution. They will take cases seen overseas as examples for the development.

Meanwhile, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi told a news conference on May 26 that her ministry is set to work on information disclosure on online abusers, including possible revisions to existing regulations. Takaichi said, "The ministry set up an expert panel last month and has begun mulling over measures to facilitate information disclosure. We're planning to study a policy that would simplify ways to identify the user when an anonymous person makes a post that infringes on another person's rights."

(Japanese original by Itsuo Tokubo, Kenta Miyahara and Kazuhiko Hori, Political News Department)

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