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Up to three years in prison for Chinese internet users who spread rumours

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Keith Zhai
South China Morning Post
September 10, 2013

A libellous online post that is forwarded more than 500 times or viewed more than 5,000 times could land its author in jail for up to three years, according to the mainland’s first judicial interpretation to control rumours on the internet.

The legal move comes as the Communist Party ramps up its campaign to rein in the internet following President Xi Jinping’s call to “seize the ground of new media”.

The Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the country’s top prosecution body, jointly issued the document yesterday. It set out the terms on what constitutes a criminal offence when it comes to spreading rumours or misinformation on the internet. The guidelines take effect today.

Besides quantifying the number of views or reposts that can get an internet user in trouble, the interpretation stipulates that any untrue post found to cause mental illness, self-harm or suicide can be considered a “serious case” also punishable by up to three years in jail. Other such “serious cases” include posts that lead to mass protests, instigate ethnic or religious clashes, damage the nation’s image or “cause a bad international effect”.

The new rules have already been criticised by internet users and given rise to serious concerns about freedom of speech.

“I would have to shut up on the internet now,” one said. “If you want to put a person in jail, the easiest way would be to forward his untrue post 500 times.”

Full story here.

This article was posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 3:51 am





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