What is the cost of spreading rumors online?

Expert advice: increase punishment in accordance with the law to deter rumors spreading

Internet rumors

  Recently, well-known female artist Yao Chen sued two Weibo bloggers for spreading rumors in the infringement dispute with a verdict.

The two defendants in the first instance of Beijing Internet Court apologized and compensated 22,000 yuan each.

Some netizens pointedly pointed out that "the cost of spreading rumors is low and the penalty is too light."

  In recent years, it is not uncommon to find cases of being held legally responsible for posting inappropriate comments on the Internet.

The reporter searched the China Judgment Document Network and found that most of the effective legal documents related to online rumours involved civil tort disputes. Among them, there were few cases where the amount of compensation awarded by the court exceeded 100,000 yuan, and some cases did not require compensation (only need to delete posts, Apology), and the number of cases that have been held criminally responsible for spreading rumors on the Internet is relatively low. In terms of sentencing, the defendant is mainly sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of less than 3 years.

  Interviewed legal experts pointed out that it is recommended to increase penalties in accordance with the law to intensify the fight against online rumors, increase the cost of online rumors, and form a deterrent to rumors and rumors. At the same time, the majority of Internet users should consciously regulate online behavior, establish awareness of legislation and governance, and return The cyberspace is clear.

  Text/Guangzhou Daily All-Media Reporter Charter

Data analysis: the proportion of criminal cases is relatively low

  The reporter logged on the China Judgment Documents website on the 7th and searched for the keyword "Internet rumors". The page showed that a total of 45 legal documents were retrieved. The specific judging year showed that it was from 2013 to 2020, of which a total of 23 were in 2019 and 2020. .

  Among them, the analysis of the major causes of civil disputes, the vast majority of civil disputes caused by Internet rumors involving infringement of reputation rights.

Specifically, 23 of the 32 cases involved reputation rights infringement disputes, accounting for 72%. The remaining cases mainly involved life, health, and physical rights, as well as divorce, loan, and labor disputes.

  After combing through 23 judgments involving disputes over infringement of reputation rights, it was found that all 22 cases required compensation for economic losses, spiritual damages, as well as deletion of infringing articles, and an apology.

  The reporter further analyzed 22 reputation infringement dispute judgments involving compensation. The plaintiff requested compensation for the highest loss of more than 660,000 yuan, and the lowest compensation was only 1 yuan.

The court judged that only 7 cases supported compensation claims, accounting for 32%. Among them, the highest compensation amount was 10,000 yuan and the lowest was 900 yuan.

  After combing through the 10 criminal cases mentioned above, the reporter found that the charges mainly involved defamation, quarrel-provocation, and extortion. The highest sentence was 3 years imprisonment, and the lowest was sentenced to 1 year of surveillance.

Civil compensation: claims for spiritual comfort money will cause "serious consequences"

  How does the court determine the amount of compensation in the trial of reputation disputes involving Internet rumors?

In response, the reporter interviewed several front-line judges in Guangzhou.

  According to the "Civil Code of the People's Republic of China", civil subjects enjoy the right of reputation.

If reputation rights are violated, under what circumstances can you sue for economic losses?

The interviewed judge pointed out that if a network user or network service provider infringes on the personal rights and interests of others and “causes property loss or serious mental damage,” the infringed party may request the other party to be liable for compensation.

  As for the amount of compensation, you can refer to the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Applicable Law in the Trial of Civil Disputes on the Use of Information Networks to Infringe Personal Rights and Interests. “Including the investigation, the reasonable fees for obtaining evidence, and the attorney's fees for stopping the infringement. Etc." If the resulting property loss or the profit of the infringer cannot be determined, the court may determine the amount of compensation within the range of less than 500,000 yuan based on the specific case.

  If the party also requests compensation for mental damage, according to the "Supreme People's Court's Interpretation on Certain Issues Concerning the Determination of Liability for Mental Damage in Civil Tort", it needs to reach the level of "mental damage causing serious consequences".

  How to understand "mental damage causing serious consequences"?

In a reputation dispute caused by Internet rumors in Hebei Province, the court of first instance answered in the judgment: “In judicial practice, the victim’s physical and health damage is generally considered, and the current practice mainly regards reaching the disability standard as a serious mentality. The main basis for damage."

Incriminating conditions: defamatory information has been forwarded more than 500 times, and criminal liability for defamation can be prosecuted

  "Internet rumors, in addition to civil liability, may also constitute a crime and be held criminally liable." said Zhu Yongping, president of the Lawyers Research Institute of Guangdong Law Society.

  What conditions must be met for online rumors to be held criminally responsible?

According to Zhu Yongping, the criminal charges involved in being held criminally responsible for spreading rumors on the Internet mainly include the crime of defamation, the crime of creating disturbances, and the crime of extortion.

It should be noted that the crime of defamation is a private prosecution, that is, the victim can directly sue the infringer for criminal liability for the crime of defamation, without the need to prosecute through the procuratorial organ.

  The reporter checked the Chinese verdict and learned that a deputy director of a police station in Sichuan Province directly sued the person responsible for defamation because of cyber violence.

The court determined that the defendant involved in the case fabricated the false fact that the deputy director of the police station beat the family member of the deceased and spread it on the Internet, resulting in information containing false content being clicked and viewed more than 90,000 times, harming the reputation of others, and the circumstances were serious. The crime of defamation was sentenced to one year of control.

  Zhu Yongping pointed out that Article 246 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China stipulates the crime of defamation and its punishment.

According to the regulations, using violence or other methods to fabricate facts to slander others, "the circumstances are serious", shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than 3 years, criminal detention, surveillance, or deprivation of political rights.

  How to understand "serious circumstances"?

According to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Procuratorate’s "Interpretation on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Laws in the Handling of Criminal Cases Using Information Networks for Defamation and Other Criminal Cases", the incrimination standard of "serious circumstances" is clearly stipulated, that is, "the same defamatory information has actually been clicked and viewed. More than 5,000 times, or the number of reposts reached more than 500 times, "causing serious consequences such as mental disorder, self-harm, suicide, etc." of the victim or his close relatives" "have received administrative penalties for defamation within two years and slandered others".

Expert suggestion: increase administrative penalties according to law

  Why do Internet rumors happen frequently?

The interviewed experts frankly said that a large part of the reason is that the network supervision system is not perfect, the cost of spreading rumors is low, and it is difficult to convict in practice. Some netizens have a fluke and wait-and-see mentality, and their awareness of the rule of law is weak.

  Professor Xie Jinjie, deputy dean of the School of Law of Sun Yat-Sen University, suggested that the Internet rumors should be governed from four dimensions, "First, protect rights by initiating civil tort litigation."

The second dimension is that if the network rumors are serious and they are suspected of constituting a criminal offence, they will be held criminally responsible. "However, there are relatively few such cases, and most Internet rumors do not meet the criminal responsibility standard."

The third dimension is from the perspective of administrative governance and administrative supervision. On the one hand, it is necessary to improve the relevant network supervision and network governance systems; in addition, in the case of certain consequences caused by network rumors, administrative agencies should also promptly intervene and pass administrative fines. , Detention and other administrative penalties, or put relevant responsible persons on the integrity "blacklist" for comprehensive punishment.

The fourth dimension is that netizens must raise their awareness of the rule of law and public morals.

  In the view of Liao Jianxun, a partner of Guangdong Baodian Law Firm, the public security organs should increase administrative penalties for online rumors. “For there is indeed evidence that the other party has insulted or slandered, it has caused relatively serious mental damage, but it is not satisfied. In the case of criminal accountability standards, the public security organs shall impose administrative penalties on the relevant persons responsible in accordance with the Public Security Management Punishment Law."

  Liao Jianxun also suggested that the court can appropriately increase the amount of compensation, increase the cost of spreading rumors, and play a certain deterrent effect on Internet rumors.