Chinese Fear Online Mobs

Owen Fletcher at the Asia Times Online reports that growing public alarm over ‘cyber manhunts’ in China, covered previously on CDT, has led to pressure on the Chinese government to protect individual privacy:

The rise of cyber manhunts has added urgency to concerns about information privacy in China. An online survey conducted by China Youth Daily in June found that 20% of respondents feared being targeted by the online mob. Eighty percent supported stronger regulation of cyber manhunts.

[…] Laws protecting privacy are in the works. The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress last month released proposed amendments to the Criminal Law. One would prohibit employees in government and telecom industries from leaking individuals’ information, punishable by up to three years in jail.

[…]These are significant steps. Privacy is currently mentioned in various Chinese statutes but lacks broad protection or a specific definition. The legal moves in progress would be among the first to explicitly ban certain behavior in privacy cases, making prosecution easier. The personal information law would provide the most universal protection of privacy in Chinese law so far.

Fletcher mentions three specific controversies in Chinese cyberspace which have spawned ‘human flesh searches’, details of which can be found in the links below.

Wang Fei, who has been hounded by netizens after his wife committed suicide allegedly in response to his infidelity, has sued for defamation and violation of privacy.  His lawsuits have been the main catalyst for the privacy laws now proposed.  His case has been mentioned before here on CDT, and the EastSouthWestNorth blog provides a detailed account of the Internet-enabled persecution.

Also on CDT: Duke undergraduate Grace Wang received death threats when a video of her attempts to mediate between pro-Tibet and pro-China protesters on campus surfaced on sites like YouTube.  Furious Chinese netizens also targeted her parents in China.

In July 2008 chinaSMACK translated outraged comments urging vigilante justice against the woman in the disturbing ‘kitten killer’ pictures which appeared on the Internet in July 2008.


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