On Governing Un-illegal

In China, illegal online information refers to information violating the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Maintaining Internet Security, and the Measures for the Administration of Internet Information Service promulgated by the State Council and other related laws and regulations.

The Internet has created a virtual community, which is a direct reflection of actual society, with which it has a strong interaction. In real life, we see not only peace, development, flowers and praises, but also wars, destruction, vulgarity and lies. All these can find their counterparts in the cyber space.

The Chinese Internet industry was highlighted this June across the country, even the world, for two issues: the Ministry of Industry and Information required computer producers to pre-install a web filter called Green Dam-Youth Escort; and the national television CCTV criticized Google China in its prime time news for providing links to pornographic information. The two issues addressed the same problem: the need to govern un-illegal but harmful information on the Internet.

It should be mentioned that the definitions of “harmful” “unhealthy” and “unsuited” information are varied in different countries, and even in one country in different periods. These concepts cannot be separated from historical background and social context.

Unhealthy information indicates information, including texts, pictures, audios and videos, which do not aid the construction of socialist ethics, and those that are against public morality and fine Chinese cultural traditions.

In the U.S., Britain and Germany, for example, it is legal to provide porn for adults online, only if minors do not have access to it. Therefore, this can be regarded as un-illegal but unhealthy/unsuitable information.

But in China, it is clearly stated in its laws and regulations that spreading information including rumors, slander, porn, gambling, violence and details of murder, terror and instigating crime is strictly forbidden. As a result, in the strict sense, the amount of un-illegal but unhealthy information is not as much as we may have imagined.

In international practice, this kind of information is defined as “unsuited content”, referring to that which is inappropriate for some particular social groups, typically for minor who would be harmed if exposed to such content.

Order is the foundation of any society, and the online community is no exception. Many factors constitute the order of the virtual society: technological agreements, international pacts, national laws, trade regulations, public opinions and civic virtues.

Generally speaking, the unsuitable content is defined as contents that advocate pornography, violence, and gender, racial, ethnic and religious discrimination and hatred, and that instigate crimes.

To a large extent, academic circles, the Internet industry and law enforcers do not doubt the necessity of Internet governance. Moreover, they focus on specific issues or regulation articles to see if they reasonably and legitimately maintain the balance between the freedom of speech and public interest.

Item 1, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights stipulates that everyone has the right to freedom of speech. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of national boundaries.

The restrictions to freedom of speech according to law can also help to prevent illegal and criminal behavior, protect public health and social morality, protect the reputation and other rights of individuals, prevent the leaking of information received in confidence, and maintain the authority and justice of the judiciary.

At the same time the convention also sets regulations on the exercising of these freedoms, as they carry with them duties and responsibilities. They must be subject to formalities, requirements, restrictions and penalties set by the law, which is absolutely necessary in a democratic society and is in the interests of national security, territorial integrity and public safety.

This news is organised by China electronics manufacturer.

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