Online platforms suspend accounts after a mother, faced with online abuse after her son’s death, commits suicide
Published: Jun 04, 2023 08:17 PM
cyber attack Photo:VCG

cyberbullying. Photo:VCG

A mother in Wuhan, Hubei Province, jumped off a building last week after she faced online trolls just because she dressed up after her son got hit and killed by a car. Over the weekend, police weighed in to investigate cyberbullying, and Chinese internet platforms suspended the accounts involved in the incident.

The mother, surnamed Yang, jumped from the 24th floor on June 2, almost two weeks after her son, who was a primary school student in Wuhan, was hit and killed by a vehicle driven by one of the teachers from the school.

The teacher has been detained by the police, and the principals of the school were dismissed. 

After the incident, the mother was interviewed by the media, during which she accused the school of misconduct. However, some netizens, after seeing the video, accused the mother of "dressing up nicely and even doing her make-up to stage a show." Some questioned if the mother wanted to become famous by hyping her son's tragedy and asking for more compensation.

Several people close to the family told Chinese media outlets that the mother had been bearing the anguish of losing her child, yet what made her commit suicide is unknown. 

The incident propelled heated discussion about cyberbullying on Chinese social media over the weekend. One Sina Weibo user said the mother was killed by trolls who attacked her online. The majority also called for tough punishment of the online trolls. 

The local public security bureau said that it is investigating the cause of Yang's death and the cyberbullying she faced, Xiaoxiang Chenbao, a local media outlet, reported on Friday.

Chinese internet platforms such as Sina and Tencent suspended several accounts that badmouthed the mother. Tencent on Sunday said it had closed 37 accounts involved in the incident. Tencent said it opposes abuse and personal attacks on the internet, and vowed to strengthen crackdowns on inappropriate comments. 

The Publicity Department of Zhejiang Province said on its WeChat account that no matter how difficult it is to bring cyberbullying under control, it is a problem that must be addressed. 

China has witnessed several tragedies caused by online abuse. In January this year, a 23-year-old woman surnamed Zheng took her own life after months of battling against online abuse by people who attacked her for having pink hair, after she shared a post celebrating her admission to graduate school alongside her bedridden grandfather.

According to China's Public Security Administration Punishment Law, online abusers, if they caused severe consequences, could face five or 10 days of detention and a fine of 500 yuan ($70). 

Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times that legal punishment for online trolls is difficult to achieve in practice due to the vast scale of China's netizens. 

He said those tragedies are reminders that the current management of online abuse is insufficient and more measures are to follow, both from the government and online platforms. Wang also called for rolling out more psychological counseling services for victims of online abuse.