China's government on Monday made one thing clear to its citizens: spreading rumors online won't be tolerated.
The country's top court on Monday interpreted a law on how the spread of so-called "online rumors" should be handled by China's lawmakers. According to Reuters, which obtained a copy of that interpretation, if a particular rumor is posted to a Web page that has 5,000 or more visits or is reported on social-networking sites more than 500 times, the person publishing the rumor could face up to three years in jail.
China has for years talked about its issues with online forums, social networks, blogs, and other places where its citizens attempt to share an opinion. The Chinese government has contended that the spread of rumors on blogs and sites like Twitter-like service Sina Weibo is bad for society and patently wrong. In a statement to reporters on Monday, the high court's spokesman Sun Jungong said that "no country would consider the slander of other people as freedom of speech."
A big issue related to this move -- which clearly is designed to limit free speech -- is the relatively low number of shares that would be required to trigger a violation. In a country of more than 1.3 billion people, just 500 shares or 5,000 visits to a site is nothing.