Japan
Japan
© Liam Burnett

Hana Kimura appeared on Terrace House: Tokyo, a reality television series about six strangers, men and women, living together. Ms. Kimura, a professional wrestler, joined the programme in September 2019, and in an incident in March 2020, she took issue with a fellow cast member for damaging one of her wrestling costumes. After the scenes where she expresses her outrage were aired, she was subjected to a torrent of attacks on social media. That month, she posted self-harm images and some of the online abuse she received. In May 2020, she was found dead, her death ruled as suicide. Here, her mother, Kyoko Kimura, who created rememberhana.com, a foundation to help victims of online abuse, shares Hana’s story.

Hana received slander and vilification from all over the world. After she uploaded the photo of herself cutting her wrist to social media, Hana received even more abuse, insults and violent comments. “It's your fault”, “Don't pretend to be the victim” etc. – those [words] definitely pushed her further. She felt cornered. Hana is no longer with us. It doesn’t take long for cyberbullying or slander to break hearts.

It was impossible for Hana to speak out. In the case of the reality TV show, there was a confidentiality obligation.... It was not long before her death when she revealed concrete stories about the programme to her friends and family. “They don't treat actors as human beings,” she told me. “They don’t have human hearts.”

“It doesn’t take long for cyberbullying or slander to break hearts.”

While there was a confidentiality obligation, she was in a position where even the action of suing the people for contempt could lead to further slander. We still catch ourselves asking, "How could we have helped her?”

One young man sent me an apology email. He told me his account name, name and his address. That was the account the police had been investigating. Another person's name and address were identified by the discovery systems of the U.S. The police investigated and prosecuted them. One was convicted of insult [a crime] and fined 9,000 yen [$80].

When this news went viral, people were surprised at how cheap the fine was. Many said that it would be better to say whatever they want and just pay the fine.

CYBERBULLYING

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© Jeremy Goldberg
She was receiving up to 100 hate messages a day
@HanaKimura You’re disgusting
@HanaKimura Return to the zoo
@HanaKimura You make me sick
@HanaKimura Fuck you
@HanaKimura You are such trash
@HanaKimura Seriously fuck off
@HanaKimura You can hurt people mindlessly and trample on their dignity
@HanaKimura Dumb gorilla..go back to the mountains
@HanaKimura I unfollowed her
@HanaKimura Please leave the show
@HanaKimura Worst season of the entire show, it's all your fault
@HanaKimura A troublesome mentally ill women
@HanaKimura Gross and Weak
Cyberbullying

A form of online harassment, the constant and intentional infliction of damage through digital technologies to undermine a target’s self-esteem.

Etsuo Hara/Getty Images
© Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

I have fully realized the necessity of strict laws against slander; it will act as a huge deterrent. I am collecting signatures from around the world for a petition calling for more severe punishment in Japan.

I would like the leaders around the world to take the following actions:

  • Laws and regulations on media that induce slander.
  • Further enhancement of education on how to use social media.
  • Strict punishment for slanderous activities.
  • Strengthen the system of investigative organizations/methods regarding slander.
  • Simplification of the sender information disclosure procedure.
  • Increased liability for human rights violations and/or mental health damage.
  • Clarification of legal responsibility such as obligation to delete the platform.
  • Victim support programme.
  • Perpetrator rehabilitation programme.

I pray every day that one day we can have a safe and gentle world on the Internet. I have a great deal of fear and disgust [for the Internet]. However, the Internet was a necessity for restoring Hana’s honour. I now think that the problem is how people use it. By using the Internet with love, you will not hurt anyone, but rather connect with people and generate positive discussions. It is all up to us.

Be wary of information flowing through the Internet. Investigate and be your own judge. Please don’t follow “everyone”. And please, do not forget to show love and respect to the people on the other side of the screen.

Along with Hana’s death, my heart died. What I have now is nothing but borrowed time added to my life. In honour of Hana’s last message [via social media], “Mama, live a happy life", I have no choice but to live. I want to spend the rest of my life trying to achieve a world with empathy, as Hana wished for.

46%

Japanese high school girls who would “pretend to be a man [on the Internet] to express any opinion for fear of backlash.”
– Girl Scouts of Japan
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WHAT CAN I DO?

For everybody

do more

For technology companies

do better

For lawmakers and law enforcement

do right
Disrupt digital violence

Take Action

A virtual world free of violence is possible. UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, supports the right of all women and girls to live without fear of gender-based violence or abuse in all spaces, including online. Everyone plays a role in making this more than a hope but a reality.

WHAT CAN I DO?

For everybody:

DO more

Anyone who shares another’s intimate images without her consent – even if a sharer is not the original perpetrator – is committing violence against women. Let the disruption start with you. See people attacking, bullying or threatening someone online? Don’t join in. Post positive messages to counter the negative. Report the abuse to the technology platform. One cybermob attack survivor said she felt seen and supported by people who defended her.

For technology companies:

DO better

UNFPA joined the World Wide Web Foundation in its call to Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter to prioritize the safety of women online, holding them to the pledges made to do so during the 2021 Generation Equality Forum in Paris. But there are many more platforms. In the words of Thorn, which works to end online child sexual abuse, “We won’t achieve the goal of building an Internet that is safe until every platform with an upload button has adopted proactive detection measures.”

For lawmakers and law enforcement:

DO RIGHT

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, “In 64 of 86 countries, law enforcement agencies and courts appear to be failing to take appropriate  corrective actions to address online violence against women.” Lawmakers need to recognize the pervasive and prevalent nature of the violence and support legislative and regulatory responses that meet the needs of women and girls, including creation and resourcing of independent monitoring and regulatory bodies. For example, Australia’s Office of the E-Safety Commissioner is serving as a model for countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom in addressing online safety. Seeking justice should not have to be another traumatizing experience.