Beijing police have busted an Internet company which was found to have created and spread online rumors and engaged in illegal business operations. According to the detained company employees such as Qin Zhihui, who went by the name Qinhuohuo online, the fake information includes accusations that the government had given a large amount of money to a foreign passenger who died in the Wenzhou bullet train accident in 2011.
The case is currently under investigation. Some netizens expect the case to bring more similar companies under the spotlight.
As initial information released by the police shows, this criminal gang is akin to an Internet underworld. They operate on their own without moral boundaries. They start rabid rumors, which lets people see that China's Internet is in a state of disorder.
Clearing up the crime of fabrication on the Internet is a process that China's Internet development must experience in order to bring it back to order. We have long said that the Internet is not a zone beyond the law. The detention of the company's employees is just the prelude to an Internet legal system that has been too late coming.
The action taken by the Beijing police does not constitute suppression of freedom of speech on the Internet. China's opinion sphere needs criticism and diversity of expression rather than fabrication and rumors. Those detained have been profiting from their illegal acts. The way they committed their crimes must be suppressed.
We hope the police's next step will abide by the following two principles based on law.
First, the police should investigate the accomplices of those detained and their criminal liabilities. Judicial authorities needn't worry about some people's dissatisfaction with cracking down on Internet fabrication. The reality proves that the country handled such cases too softly, which has allowed rumor mongering to spiral out of control.
Second, the police should draw a line between online fabrications and venting negative sentiments so as not to bring about erroneous cases. Currently, quite a number of people oppose extreme criticism on the Internet and believe those uttering such opinions should also be dealt with in the same way as those who were detained in the above case.
It must be seen that although disorder exists in the Internet, it has brought unexpected forces for social progress.
There are many abnormal practices on the Internet, such as interpreting things out of context and attacking individuals verbally. The Internet also needs moral regulations. But the law must play the leading role in governing the Internet. Detaining suspects such as Qinhuohuo has pointed out the direction for both an Internet legal system and civilization construction. We hope this is a turning point for the Internet to abide by law and morality.