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Draft guidelines against cyberbullying seek public feedback

By CAO YIN | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-06-09 22:30

A draft guideline on fighting cyberbullying began soliciting public opinion on Friday, part of China's new steps to protect people's rights.

The draft legal document, formulated by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the country's top judicial authorities, as well as the Ministry of Public Security, has been disclosed online.

The top court put its postal and e-mail addresses on its website, welcoming individuals and departments to share ideas and suggestions on the draft. The deadline for collecting opinions will end on June 25.

As a global hot issue, cyberbullying has frequently made media headlines over the past few years. Tragedies caused by the online misconduct have also gained massive public attention and prompted many walks of life, including cyberspace agencies and legal professionals, to take measures to solve the problem.

Last week, for example, a mother in Wuhan, Hubei province, took her own life after the death of her son who had been hit by a car while at primary school.

A video clip posted online before the woman's death showed her speaking about her son's death at the campus. Some viewers left derogatory comments about her looks, saying that despite grieving she still had time to do her makeup.

It was not suggested that these comments were a major contributor to the woman's death, but the messages aroused public outrage on cyberbullying.

Earlier this year, the death of Zheng Linghua, a 23-year-old woman who had been bullied online because she dyed her hair pink, also triggered widespread attention.

Zheng became the target of cyberbullying in July last year after she posted pictures and videos proudly showing her postgraduate admission letter to her grandfather on his hospital bed.

The cyberbullies went after her for her hair, which she had dyed pink. Some netizens linked her to a nightclub worker, a seductress or a monster, while some even forwarded the photos and fabricated rumors that they showed an elderly man married to a young woman.

Zheng asked for legal help, trying to fight the bullies by initiating lawsuits, but her lawyer confirmed that Zheng died on Jan 23, saying that she had been hospitalized for depression and calling for cyberbullying to be brought to a rapid end.

China has taken multiple measures to combat online bullying.

At the end of last year, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's top internet regulator, issued a regulation, requiring online platforms and websites to focus more on cyberbullying prevention. It urged internet operators to set up a quick channel for netizens to provide evidence and help them refuse unfriendly comments from strangers via technical means.

A number of national legislators and political advisors have also called for giving a clearer definition of cyberbullying and listing relevant situations.

In the latest draft, those producing or spreading rumors to defame others or infringe upon other people's reputations, causing severe consequences, can be identified as cyberbullying and should be charged with the crime of defamation in line with the Criminal Law.

The draft also states that those who organize cybermanhunts and send others' personal data to more people will face the crime of infringing upon residents' personal information.

It says that cyberbullying targeted at children or the disabled, or behaviors of falsifying sex-related topics to harm other people's dignity, will be harshly punished.

In addition, people using "deep-fake" technology to publish illegal or harmful information to disrupt public order, customs, ethics and morals, also need to be given tougher punishment, it added.

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