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Editorial: Sudden death of Japan reality TV star begs question, was she protected enough?

The sudden death of professional wrestler Hana Kimura, who had been a cast member on "Terrace House," a reality TV show depicting men and women living together while looking for love, is an all too tragic incident.

Anonymous posts that defamed Kimura, such as one that told her to "Get lost," kept piling up on social networking sites in response to her interactions with other cast members on the show. It is said that a note hinting at suicide was found at Kimura's home.

"Terrace House" was first broadcast by Fuji Television in Japan, then distributed by the streaming service Netflix to countries worldwide. Following Kimura's death, Fuji TV decided to stop producing and broadcasting the show.

Reality TV attracts audiences with its unpredictable story arcs, and is popular internationally. "Terrace House," like other shows, was advertised as having no script.

But that also means that the cast members expose their names and themselves as real people to the rest of the world. If they become the focus of attention on a show, there's always a risk that they could become the target of personal attacks on social media or elsewhere.

Kimura had opened up on social media about being troubled about such attacks. She must have felt like her character was being assassinated by the heartless words targeting her.

Suicides of cast members on reality TV shows in the U.K. and the U.S. have become a problem.

Fuji TV has explained that its staff had been in contact with the cast members of "Terrace House." But had they provided enough emotional support, and had there been a sufficient system to prevent cast members from online abuse? It is the broadcaster's responsibility to investigate and explain their findings to the audience.

Online bullying and defamation have become increasingly serious problems. In fiscal 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications was consulted on 5,198 cases. That's approximately four times the number of consultations recorded in fiscal 2010.

To prevent malevolent online posts, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi has indicated that the government will revise the current system to make it easier to identify the people behind such posts. Social media service operators are also poised to strengthen measures, including suspending users who use their accounts for defamation and abuse.

Extreme posts that violate human rights must be regulated. At the same time, freedom of speech and privacy of communications must be protected. We must use this opportunity to further debate effective measures.

Acts that hurt others cannot be tolerated in real life, or online. Please stop to think before you post.

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