Online defamation victim clears name through law

Updated: 2015-06-05 17:18


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After fighting online defamatory posts for years, an investment consultant finally clears his name through litigation thanks to the improvement in China's legal system.

"Whenever a new customer came to me, he or she would ask me about the posts and I had to explain to them repeatedly that they were untrue. Some of them believed me while some just left," said Jing Ji, an overseas investment consultant with Welltrend.

A number of defamatory posts against Jing were posted online anonymously in 2011 and 2012, which caused him great mental pain and trouble.”Actually the anonymous posts go back to several years, but I only have proof of those posted in 2011 and 2012,” Jing said.

Incidents of online defamation have been on the rise in China since the Internet grew into an easily accessible public platform.

"During those darkest days, I thought more than 100 times about committing suicide or resorting to violence to clear my name because it was just too shameful and hurtful to live," Jing said. "But I have parents counting on me and I think I should have confidence in the legal system."

People who post slanderous comments online can face up to three years in prison if their statements are widely reposted, according to a judicial interpretation issued by China's top court and procuratorate in September 2013. The ruling also defines what is considered a "serious case" of spreading false information or rumors online, including those which cause mental anguish to the subjects of rumors.

"Though the new judicial interpretation is not directly applicable to the case, I believe it clarifies the identification and sentencing criteria for online infringement activities and to some extent provides references for the court to accelerate the trial process of the case," said Mei Li, a lawyer with Beijing Sino-promise Law Firm, commenting on the case.

"I feel I'm lucky because the law finally gives me justice and many other victims of online bullies may now get justice after all, though the judgment can't fully compensate either my mental anguish or possible financial losses," Jing said.

The Beijing Dongcheng District People's Court ruled Jing was due 40,000 yuan ($6,448) in compensation and a public apology from the guilty party after finding the IP address of the anonymous posts matched the registration IP address of the official social media account of another company. The defendants appealed, but the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court upheld the lower court's ruling.

However, the judgment was handed down about three years after the posts were put online, during which time Jing missed the boom period of his industry and failed to secure the customers he would have got.

"At least I have a clear name now," Jing said.