On September 9, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate released interpretations specifying online offenses punishable under the Criminal Law. These interpretations will make it harder for illegal information to spread online.
The Internet in China, after more than 10 years' development, has become a new platform for the spread of information and opinions. It has played a positive role in pushing forward reforms and supervising the government. The Internet has driven the country to catch up with the world's leading economies. Generally, China has withstood the tests given by the Internet era at an early stage.
However, problems brought along by the Internet are accumulating. The most serious is the loss of control of online rumors and attacks on individuals. Online rumors are like a cancer threatening the normal functioning of society.
The newly released interpretations will guide judicial authorities to handle online offenses properly and therefore deter rumormongers in an unprecedented way.
Currently, any measures for managing the Internet according to the law will be seen as restrictions on freedom of speech. However, no country can provide a shelter for rumors or defamation.
Some worry that the Internet may lose its vitality due to management from the authorities. But the fact is, the swirl of online information has undermined much positive energy in society, prompting people to stay away from social networks.
Opinions on the Internet are increasingly diverging from social realities. Those based on rumors have become common, which does no good to either social construction or the Internet economy.
Managing the Internet order through law will not eliminate the achievements brought by its development, but can preserve them.
The interpretations are unlikely to be the end of Chinese authorities seeking to manage the Internet through laws. Such management will accompany the development of the Internet. Any bad behavior on the Internet will be resisted by the law sooner or later.
Most Internet users will not feel worried by the interpretations. Those who suddenly feel "not free" are only a minority.
China will not ban people's speech or set obstacles to appropriate Internet supervision. This would not fit China's path and is contrary to the social reality since China's reform and opening-up. But China will never become a country where unlimited speech and rumors are legal. Those who object to the regulations should respect the reality as well as the rule of law.
The interpretations by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate offer the Internet a new opportunity to be managed by laws. Those who succeed through the Internet must be the ones that abide by them.