China tightens curbs on microblogs

China Monday issued new rules that could see Internet users jailed for up to three years for re-tweeting posts containing defamatory content.

Beijing; Unveiling tough measures to stop the spread of online rumours, China Monday issued new rules that could see Internet users jailed for up to three years for re-tweeting posts containing defamatory content.

People who post defamatory comments online in China will face up to three years in prison if their statements are widely reposted, an official judicial interpretation issued here today said.

The document, released by the Supreme People`s Court (SPP) and the Supreme People`s Procuratorate, stipulates that people will face defamation charges if online rumours they post are viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users or re-tweeted more than 500 times.

The measures were seen as an attempt to stifle the growing Internet openness in the form of microblogs, challenging the monopoly of official media.
China at present has over 300 million microblog holders, the highest in the world.

If those posting rumours are repeat offenders, or if their online rumours caused the victim or the victim`s immediate family members to commit self-mutilation or suicide or experience mental disorders, they may also face defamation charges.

There reports of several people held posting allegations of corruption against officials in the recent weeks.

Over the past month, police across China have detained a number of suspects and closed several businesses for fabricating online rumours.

In China, people committing the crime of defamation face up to three years in prison or deprivation of political rights.

The judicial interpretation provides a legal reference for punishing online crimes such as slander, cases of which have increased in recent years, SPP spokesman Sun Jungong said on Monday.

Some Internet users fabricate rumours about others and create false information while making use of sensitive social issues, which has disrupted social order and triggered "mass incidents," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Sun as saying.

Public has called for harsh punishment for such criminal activity.

The judicial interpretation, to be effective from tomorrow, is the first of its kind to regulate online rumours in China.

It metes out punishment for companies and individuals paid to delete online messages or intentionally post false information.

If a company`s illegal gross revenues exceed 150,000 yuan (USD 24,500) or its illegal gains surpass 50,000 yuan, it will face illegal business operations charges deemed "serious," according to the judicial interpretation.

According to China`s criminal law, people who engage in illegal business operations deemed
"serious situations" can face up to five years in prison and fines of up to five times the amount of the illegal gains.

China`s Internet communities, especially on microblog sites like Sina Weibo, have become an important channel for citizens to express views and expose corruption and abuse of power.


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