China's New Censorship Plan: Three Years In Prison If You Get 500 Retweets Of A 'Harmful' Post

from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept

As we’ve noted before, the online community is kept on a pretty tight leash in China, with information deemed subversive or just embarrassing disappearing quickly from the networks. But it seems that’s not enough. Global Voices is reporting that yet another approach is being tried to discourage “offenders” from posting in the first place:

China has stepped up its crackdown on online rumors by issuing a judicial framework for prosecuting offenders. Internet users who share false information that is defamatory or harms the national interest face up to three years in prison if their posts are viewed 5,000 times or forwarded 500 times, according to a judicial interpretation released on September 9, 2013.

The new guideline, issued by the Supreme People’s Court, defines the criteria for convicting and sentencing offenders. This includes causing a mass incident, disturbing public order, inciting ethnic and religious conflicts, and damaging the state’s image.

In some ways, this is an escalation of a five-strikes program Techdirt wrote about last year, with the final punishment no longer being thrown off an online service for a short while, but being thrown in prison for a long while. That sudden jump in seriousness would suggest that the earlier scheme didn’t work very well, and that the authorities are still having problems with controlling the flow of information online.

Aside from obvious issues of censorship, what’s troubling here is how easily the system could be abused. For example, it would be simple for people to band together to view or retweet dodgy posts from someone they wanted sent to prison. Whether or not that happens, it’s disappointing to see the new Chinese leadership moving in the direction of more censorship and harsher penalties, when many were hoping the recent handover might be an opportunity to bring in reforms and a lighter touch, both online and offline.

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Comments on “China's New Censorship Plan: Three Years In Prison If You Get 500 Retweets Of A 'Harmful' Post”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What is the lyric line from "Won't be fooled again"?

The Who? The what? The where?

Actually it was expected that the new guys in China would be more conservative than the old guys. Guess the experts were right for once!

On the negative side of things, China is trying to turn from export controlled growth to inner market growth, which would make the “move the White House to Beijing for economic reasons” far less attractive.

JBDragon says:

Re: Re:

New NSA Boss, Continue to do the Same thing, this time more under wraps!!! Double down, the odds of getting caught or going to jail is slim to none!!! All that will happen is moved someplace else in Government!!! Things continue on getting worse and worse.

Thanks to all of those that like BIG GOVERNMENT!!! This is the results and it’s only going to get worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

At worst? It’ll end up being a mechanism for throwing enemies in jail.

At best? It’ll change how people might send emails or messages, such that they remove the long list of email addresses when forwarding messages, or it’ll encourage people to copy/paste text and send new messages – which aren’t forwarded.

Or it’ll just devolve to the point where half the population lands in prison aside from officials’ children or people in rural areas. Way to go, China!

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