On December 19, 2012, Xinhua published a report entitled "Punish Online Criminal Lawbreakers, Strengthen the Protection and Administration of the Internet in Accordance with the Law" (惩治网络违法犯罪 依法加强网络信息保护和管理). That report stated that on December 24 the National People's Congress Standing Committee would be considering a draft "Decision Regarding Strengthening Network Information Protection." (关于加强网络信息保护的决定)
The day before Xinhua's report, the People's Daily had already published an editorial on its front page entitled "The Internet is not Beyond the Law" (网络不是法外之地). Some excerpts:
"Its the most spectacular and also the raucous . . . ." many people would agree with this description of the Internet. As a completely new platform, the Internet has brought people social intercourse, information services, opinion exchanges, and tremendous convenience. At the same time it has also brought much that is disturbing - commercial fraud, malicious attacks, rumor mongering, etc.
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As China develops it needs to have a civilized, lawful, and healthy Internet environment, and whether it is overseeing agencies or Internet users, everyone should cherish this platform. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to use the correct words to say the correct things. But there also needs to be a sense of rule of law and of responsibility for what one says. Whether online or offline, this is the foundation upon which public order and popular welfare are built.
“是最精彩的，也是最嘈杂的……”这样形容互联网，是不少人的同感。互联网作为一个崭新的平台，给人们带来社交互动、信息服务、观点交流等极大便利，同时也给人带来许多困扰，商业欺诈、恶意攻击、造谣传谣，等等。During the week preceding the enactment of the Decision, most of China's major state-run media outlets followed the People's Daily lead and published editorials that made essentially the same point: The Internet has a lot of pornography, rumor mongering, defamation, false information, and disclosure of private information, and needs more regulation.
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For example, on December 19, the Guangming Daily published an editorial entitled "We Need to Establish Legal Bottom Lines for the Internet World" (要为网络世界设定法治底线). Some excerpts:
Social life has boundaries, and the Internet has a bottom line. The virtual Internet cannot skip over a system of rules for public order and good morality. It isn't that complicated: The Internet is basically a tool for people's lives and livelihood, and online activities are an extension of social life, and should not and cannot become a kingdom of "everything is freedom, no restrictions needed." In fact, regulating online life through laws will safeguard Internet users' interests, and is really a prerequisite for Internet self-governance. After all, the Internet has never been "a land beyond the law."
As far as China is concerned, there is an extremely urgent need to strengthen Internet management in accordance with the law. During the 2012 Guangdong Internet Conference held last week, Zhang Feng, the head of the MIIT's Communication Development Office said that, as of the third quarter of this year, China already had 550 million Internet users. The other side of this was that the state of Internet security was not encouraging, with false information, unlawful infringements, and similar activities taking place all the time. The right to personal privacy cannot be effectively protected, and Internet users were vulnerable to assault at any time. Users were becoming increasingly confused, and an Internet with rules but no "effective defenses" was becoming a difficult problem facing public administration.
社会生活有边界，网络世界有底线。虚拟的互联网，不能跳脱公序良俗的规制。这个道理并不复杂：网络本就是人类生活、生产的工具，网络活动本身即是社会生活的投射，不应也不能成为一个“只要自由、不要约束”的王国。以法律规范网络生活，既是对网民权益的保护，更是网络自治的前提。毕竟，网络从来就不是“法外之地”。The following day, December 20, the Guangming Daily published another editorial, this time entitled "High Level Legislation is Needed to Manage the Internet" (互联网管理亟须高等级立法). Some excerpts:
You accidentally open a web page and suddenly find you've been lead to a pornographic web site. Your computer is attacked by hackers and your personal photos are exposed. You find yourself subjected to a "vigilante search" by Internet users and you get severely harassed . . . It seems like these kinds of things are happening around us every day.
Currently, China's Internet development is facing a grim situation. On the one hand, even though there are a relatively large number of laws and regulations relating to Internet information security, and there are some laws and regulations addressing personal information in important industries such as finance and medicine, nevertheless the level of legislation is not high, and the provisions of relevant regulations are too dispersed, with limited focus and utility, and Internet criminals are getting off scott-free. On the other hand, more and more criminals are eyeing the Internet. Today's Internet is no longer merely a virtual space, it is tightly linked to the real world.
无意中打开一个网页，竟然被引向色情网站；电脑受到黑客攻击，个人照片被随意曝光；莫名遭到网友的“人肉”搜索，生活受到严重干扰……这样的事情几乎每天都在我们身边发生。On December 21, the Global Times published Chinese and English language editorials: "Freedom Not at Odds with Online Regulation" and "Strengthened Internet Management is What the People Want" (加强互联网管理是得人心的). Some excerpts:
Good things should exist forever. An unspoken assumption is that negative elements should be identified and constrained. The Internet is a typical example. It has changed the world, including the lives of Chinese people. We treasure its merits and will maintain its positive impacts on society's development. However, due to the complicated nature of exposure on the Internet, we must strengthen regulations over it.Similarly, the China Daily published an English language editorial by "Cao Yin" on December 24 entitled "Call for Law to Protect Netizens." Some excerpts:
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People would be concerned if any strict regulations devalued it. Therefore, while other countries have legislated to regulate the Internet, China has still been thinking about it. China's legislation on the Internet and actual management over it have been moderate so far.
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Problems caused by the Internet have been accumulating. It advocates individual freedom, but at the same time severely damages it. The exposure of private data as well as illegal online activity have destroyed the positive environment of this new medium. Opposition against Internet regulations has been fierce. Western voices claim that China's Internet management is suppressing freedom of expression. Both put pressure on this job. Opinions on the Internet are always radical and Western views are highly politicized.
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It is time to regulate the Internet. Such a view is actually embraced not only by the authorities but also by the public who fear that their privacy may be intruded upon. This regulation will not affect netizens' activities on the Internet but only provide more security. People who feel constrained by it are those who create waves online or even use the Internet illegally.
Experts said legislation is the best way to protect residents' private information on the Internet and provide a safer online environment.
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Ding Junjie, a professor at the Communication University of China in Beijing, said such problems are inevitable with the development of the Internet, but their negative effects should not be underestimated. He suggested upgrading current regulations and guidelines on Internet information into a law, to better protect online users' privacy.
"Although we have some regulations on cyber security and a few Internet companies also have their own guidelines to prevent information leaks, it's far from enough," he said, adding that current regulations are "fragile" and people with malicious intent can easily break them.
"To deter those who intend to make illegal money by selling others' privacy, strong legislation seems to be the most effective solution."