Comment on "Do not shoot the message provider" (China Daily website, Dec 8)
A court in Zhejiang Province ruled on Dec 3 that Tencent Computer System Co, which owns QQ Web messaging service, was partly liable for the death of a Shanghai University student who agreed to a suicide pact via instant QQ messages.
Apparently, the message provider has nothing to do with the suicide pact. The death appears to be a misadventure. The 20-year-old student was old enough to know not to play with danger. The other person in the "pact" is 22 years old, and it is not evident that he had criminal intentions. He could have had criminal intentions if he were supposed to get any benefit, for instance monetary benefit, from the death of the student.
No company would want to be a message provider if it had to take the responsibility for crimes or suicides committed by people using its services. It is actually beyond the power of the service provider to control the actions of its users.
But if there are laws on message providers that say they must have in place monitoring mechanisms to prevent fraud or abuse of their facilities, then a message provider should be accountable for its part in a deal, especially if it causes the death of a person.
The responsibility to act according to the law can make the service provider liable. But everything depends on the place, situation, and the cause and effect of the circumstances.
Maybe the way Chinese jurists look at things and the way their counterparts in the West tackle it is different. I feel that the court has its reasons to hold the three parties liable.
I sympathize with the family that lost its son.
HsunTze, on China Daily Website
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(China Daily 12/16/2010 page9)