Opinion / Editorials

Internet not beyond the law

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-15 07:19

Qin Zhihui, better known by his online name Qin Huohuo, appeared before a Beijing district people's court on Friday, where he confessed to posting more than 3,000 pieces of false information on his micro blog between 2011 and 2013, including the fake story that the Chinese government gave more than 200 million yuan ($32.19 million) in compensation to the family of a foreign passenger killed in a high-speed train collision in 2011 near the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

His case is a clear message that the cyber society is also ruled by law, and any word or act in breach of the law entails legal consequences, said a commentary in China Youth Daily on Saturday.

The Internet has permeated every part of Chinese society, and cyberspace no longer remains a virtual world but an extension of reality. Given that rumors and fake information spread fast and far online, the resulting verbal assaults and slander can inflict great harm on the victims. In many cases, the spreading of rumors and false information online not only infringes upon the interests of individuals, it also disrupts social stability. It is thus vitally important to make the law the guardian of cyberspace.

Some may argue that the campaign to quash rumors and fake information online is tantamount to restricting freedom of expression.

But this is not true. The widespread use of the Internet has given people more leeway to communicate and express themselves. Such freedom is an inherent trait of the Internet, but such freedom, in the wrong hands, can be exploited to harm others and benefit oneself.

The case of Qin is a good example of how people can fall victim to the abuse of the freedom of expression. Qin succeeded in arousing public attention and increasing the popularity of his own micro blogs by unscrupulously faking stories and damaging the reputation of others for two years. Once an online celebrity, he is now at the center of public outrage.

Cyberspace is borderless, but online freedom of expression is still bound by the borders and the bottom line of law. Whoever enjoys the convenience and freedom of expression provided by the Internet must abide by the law and refrain from starting and spreading rumors while at the same time sharpening the ability to tell true information from the false.

(China Daily 04/15/2014 page8)

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