Experts call for specialized law to be enacted to target online harassment

China Daily Updated: 2024-01-30


A police officer explains the articles in the regulation protecting minors in cyberspace to students in Nantong, Jiangsu province, on Jan 1. The regulation took effect that day. XU HUI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Legal experts are calling for the formulation of a specialized law to fight cyberbullying in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

With the number of netizens growing rapidly, more people have begun to vent their negative emotions online and engage in cyberbullying, said Liu Yanhong, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.

Expressing her anger and sadness at tragedies linked to cyberbullying, she said legislation is needed to remedy the problem.

"Most provisions involving cyberbullying are scattered in existing laws, including the Civil Code and the Criminal Law, making it difficult to comprehensively and effectively combat online misconduct," Liu said.

She urged lawmakers to integrate those provisions into a specific law targeting cyberbullying that would clarify the responsibilities and duties of related departments.

Zhu Wei, deputy head of the university's Communication Law Research Center, said that while administrative rules and judicial guidance have been issued, having a specialized law is "urgent and essential".

He said such a law would not only help people surf the internet in a civilized and sensible manner, "but also create a safer online environment".

A number of national legislators and political advisers have previously suggested a similar course of action. One is Li Dongsheng, a deputy to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, who submitted a proposal on formulating an anti-cyberbullying law to the first session of the 14th NPC in March.

He said cyberbullying is still a problem because the cost of violation is low, but victims have to expend a lot of time and energy to collect evidence to prove their cases, which is a big challenge.

But Zhao Hong, another law professor at the university, said such legislation needed to be promoted prudently, because cyberbullying is not a simple issue that can be handled by just increasing punishment or strengthening criminal sanctions.

She emphasized that not everything can be solved by legal means, adding that ensuring the healthy development of internet platforms and protecting netizens' rights to speak out in cyberspace also need to be taken into consideration when dealing with cyberbullying.

Li Junhui, an official from the China Justice Big Data Institute, said that finding out who is inciting bullies on the internet is more important, and online platforms could help in that regard by strictly implementing real-name registration and strengthening the management of their users.

He said large online platforms and judicial departments also need to share information related to cyberbullying.

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