Chinese Microblogging Governance: Flaws with September’s Online Rumor Law

Yuanyuan Dong, a lecturer at the School of Languages and Communications Studies at Beijing Jiaotong University, discusses issues with China’s September 2013 legislation which permitted imprisonment for slanderous material on microblogs shared at least 500 times or viewed 5,000 times.

Microblogging has become increasingly popular in China, and the main channel for Chinese netizens to collect and share information. By the end of October 2013, China’s microblogging population reached 530 million people. Realizing microblogging’s enormous social influence, the Chinese government has begun to exert gradual management and supervision of speech on micro-blogging platforms.

On September 9, 2013, building on existing online rumor laws, the Supreme People’s Court of PRC and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of PRC jointly announced “The Interpretation of Issues about Applicable Laws Dealing with Criminal Cases of Using Information Networks to Slander,” (this legislation shall be henceforth referred to as the Interpretation). The main clause of this Explanation provides supplemental provisions to Article 246 of The Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which states that:

“Whoever, by violence or other methods, publicly humiliates another person or invent stories to defame him, if the circumstances are serious, shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.”

In the 2013 Interpretation…

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