The death of female professional wrestler Hana Kimura on May 23, 2020 prompted a great deal of sympathy from fans concerned about the impact of cyberbullying.

Kimura had appeared on a popular TV variety programme and is believed to have committed suicide after hateful remarks were made about her on social media.

In response to the abuse she faced, Kimura posted a message on social media saying “I can't deny that I was hurt. I'm sorry for being weak. Goodbye.” Her body was found shortly afterwards.

Since Kimura’s death, many celebrities have spoken out about online bullying. Among them is actor Yu Shirota, who has called for more to be done to protect people from hateful comments made on social media. Shirota, who is of Japanese and Spanish parentage, spelled out his thoughts under the hashtag ‘Reform the rules of #SNS.’

Yu Shirota (@YU_and_YOU)

“For a long time now, there has been a tendency to say that because someone does a job that puts them in the public eye, it’s only natural for them to face abuse. But what you do for a living is irrelevant. We’re all sensitive people, and some of us are stronger than others.

I think it’s great that people have opinions and can discuss things. But it can’t be right that someone can go on social media, attack a defenseless person without provocation and take no responsibility for the consequences.

If a member of my family, lover or friend was going through the same thing, could I really just say, “There’s nothing to be done about it, we just have to get on with it”?

When abuse goes too far it becomes criminal. It has to be cracked down on more thoroughly and rigorously. I'll say it again: age and occupation have nothing to do with it.

If we carry on accepting this, social media will continue to be weaponised and kids who see these abusive posts will copy them. This insidious bullying will continue to affect many people in the future and it will never go away. Social media has become part of our daily lives. I think we should reconsider how we use it.”

Yu Shirota (@YU_and_YOU)

Many social media users liked and commented on Yu Shirota’s posts:

  • “I think that’s true. We have to come up with countermeasures that fit the times we’re living in.”
  • “The idea that just because the other person can’t see your face you can say whatever you like is so wrong. Thank you for your courageous remarks.”
  • “I'm not a celebrity, but I have faced abuse. It was pretty scary, and I imagine it’s scary for celebrities too.”

Sadly, not all the comments to Yu Shirota’s post were so supportive. One user chipped in with “I wish you a painful death.”

The Internet is undoubtedly a fantastic invention. It offers us practically all the information and knowledge we could ever want. No matter how esoteric your interests, you can be sure to find like-minded people online. Unfortunately, the internet also offers room for ridiculous and offensive opinions to flourish, and thanks to the anonymity of social media, such opinions can be disseminated without fear of the consequences.

In this case, there is a happy ending to the story, for the anonymous poster of the offensive remark aimed at Yu Shirota quickly deleted his post. The Internet might appear to offer anonymity, but the police can trace those who post comments and will do so whenever they suspect slander or libel.

As Yu Shirota said, entertainers are not just faces on a screen. They’re human beings too, and until we recognize their right to be treated with basic human decency, cyberbullying will only get worse.

By - George Lloyd.