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Guideline urges harsher penalties for cyberbullies

By CAO YIN | | Updated: 2023-09-25 20:29
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Chinese police, prosecutors and judges will be required to impose harsher punishments on people who bully children and the disabled in cyberspace, a new guideline said.

Jointly issued by the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security on Monday, the 20-article guideline on dealing with cases involving cyberbullying aims to help the country clean up the online environment and protect the legitimate rights of internet users.

Calling for strengthened efforts to fight cyberbullying, the guideline states that those who organize cyberbullying, fabricate sex-related topics to infringe upon people's dignity, or use generative artificial intelligence technologies to post illegal information will be given heavier punishments.

Cyberbullying organized or condoned by internet platforms must also be strictly combated, it said.

It allows prosecutors to initiate public-interest lawsuits if they find internet service providers do not take action or perform their duties when cyberbullying happens on their platforms, causing improper or even illegal information to be spread online.

While handling public-interest cases, prosecutors are permitted to ask for technological support or assistance from internet service providers, it added.

As an important global issue, cyberbullying has frequently made the headlines in recent years. Tragedies caused by online misconduct have also received massive public attention and prompted many industries, such as cyberspace agencies, internet service providers and judicial authorities, to initiate measures to solve the problem.

A draft version of the guideline was released online in June to solicit public opinions, Zhou Jiahai, deputy head of the SPC's Research Office, said at a news conference on Monday.

More than 50,000 suggestions and opinions from people from all walks of life were received, Zhou said adding this "demonstrates that the public's great concern on the issue".

While calling for greater focus on handling cyberbullying-related cases, he said that the guideline also requires judges, prosecutors and police officers across the country to protect victims during the handling of cases. Netizens should also be helped to surf the internet in a civilized manner through the provision of stronger education on relevant laws.

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