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China's timely judicial move vs online crimes
Publication Date : 10-09-2013
China's "Judicial Interpretations About Handling Online Crimes", which were announced on Monday and take effect on Tuesday, are timely and will facilitate the fight against online libel, fraud, blackmail and the spreading of misinformation. They will also protect the freedom of Internet users to express their opinions online.
While a recent storm of action has resulted in impressive deterrence against rampant dissemination of misinformation online, many worry that some with power in their hands may try to take this as an opportunity to persecute those who speak ill of what they have done or even expose their abuse of power online.
The interpretations may be a precaution against that feared scenario. They include detailed explanations about what actions constitute the dissemination of misinformation, and the consequences of libel deemed as serious offences that entail criminal penalties. The explanation says that a person cannot be deemed as having committed the offence of libel when the libelous statements he or she posted online have not resulted in any of the serious consequences the interpretations describe.
It is indeed necessary to crack down on illegal online activities. There are instances of people making up lies about certain companies in order to blackmail them, with the blackmailers posting falsehoods that are damaging to a particular person or company and then demanding money to delete the comments. Some people have also sought to smear the reputation of government departments and officials by fabricating lies about them.
If such people are allowed to make trouble via the Internet, cyberspace will be full of lies, fabrications and dishonest activities, and the rights and interests of the majority of Internet users will suffer as a consequence.
However, a crackdown on illegal online activities should never become a pretext for compromising freedom of speech.
That quite a number of corrupt officials have been nabbed through online expositions of their abuses of power verifies how important freedom of speech is to the country's anti-graft fight. Only with full freedom of speech will the Internet be an important source for leaders of all levels to learn the public's real opinions about pressing issues.
Protecting free speech is as important as the crackdown on illegal activities online.