China Orders New Guidelines For The Internet

( — China is drafting a document of guidelines on how the country’s courts should punish online abuse. Communist party leaders say there has been an uptick in harassment of women and bullying of children. The Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People’s Court are preparing the guidance and will focus on “cybercrime,” including doxing, spreading rumors, and issuing insults.

The process is currently in a public consultation phase, but authorities say the criminal courts intend to step in and issue punishments if the online abuse is considered severe.

A debate is taking place in the country about the extent of abuse online and what should be done about it. High-profile suicide cases have prompted soul-searching among the Chinese population.

For example, 23-year-old Zheng Linghua committed suicide after months of online attacks, initially related to her hair color. She posted a photo showing her attending to her sick grandfather and the insults increased. Some people called her a prostitute or an evil spirit, others said she was a young bride married to an older man. Having tried to take action against her harassers – she hired lawyers and issued cease-and-desist letters – she killed herself six months after the abuse began. Social media users left condolences on her account, including some people who had harassed her.

The internet in China is significantly different than in the West. Online content in the communist nation is strictly controlled and sites not deemed appropriate by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are blocked behind a wall of censorship known as the Great Firewall. It blocks transmission from any IP address to any harmful content, including graphic adult sites or gambling sites.

Some search engines and major social media sites are prohibited, although China has its own versions of these. Banned sites include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and the Google search engine. Forbidden media outlets include the New York Times and the BBC. However, people with particular technological skills have been known to circumvent these bans.

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