Associate Professor Angrily Sues Chinese Blog
The following is the translation by Elizabeth Balkan of an article that appeared in Dongfang Morning Edition (via MediaChina).
Speaking to a an associate professor from one of Nanjing's Universities, who has filed a lawsuit on the grounds of libel, SUN Fengjin, responsible for providing web log service in China commented "The blog itself has not violated the posted regulations, and now shall not delete any user posts," in an interview yesterday with a journalist from the morning edition [Dongfang Morning Edition].
Anonymous Blogger rebukes accuser as "rotten person, rotten teaching materials"
In September of this year, while Nanjing University Professor Chen looked online for circumstances where written works require citation, he discovered on China Blog (www.blogcn.com) a webpage from an individual using the nickname "Long Stockings." There he found an entry posted in June entitled "rotten person, rotten teaching materials." The post included "tomorrow is Professor Chen so-and-so's lesson (note: The original text used the real name of Professor Chen)... as such, I’ve decided to read his book; though after reading one page my brain retains no impression whatsoever... Chen so-and-so is really tedious as expected, and from reading the book he wrote, one can see that in general it contains no logical words whatsoever. Every time he summarizes a topic he does not classify the argument according to logic... he's really just a good-for-nothing. No wonder he cannot remember anything, his really is the most rotten teaching material."
The ultimate objective is to make more websites understand that they cannot exceed the legal privileges and become a tool used to damage other people's legal interests.
Considering the content, the webpage is likely the construction of one of Chen's students; but there is no way to definitively determine who exactly is responsible. Though Professor Chen contacted China Blog and demanded they delete the posting, the website would not do so without Chen first providing material verifying the user's identity. Because of inconsistent opinions, the article remained on the website.
Chen believes the fact that the website took his name and denounced him as a “rotten person, [with] rotten materials,” “simply a good-for-nothing,” constitutes a serious violation of his honor and reputation. [Chen believes] the Chinese blog did not fulfill their responsibility to monitor the blog, and in allowing the article to remain posted for such a long time caused grave mental anguish. He has subsequently taken his case to Nanjing Drum Tower District Court to demand that China Blog immediately cease future encroachment on others' rights, issue a formal public apology, remove the slanderous words, and make reparations for mental anguish in the sum of 10,000 Yuan.
Chen expressed that his objective for suing is, in part, to make China Blog stop violating [other people's] rights, saying he wants to "make more websites understand that they cannot exceed the legal privileges and become a tool used to damage other people's legal interests." In reality, because "we cannot say where the boundary for freedom of speech on the internet lies," it is difficult to come to a straight conclusion. Moreover, since 'blogs' currently have the capacity to either allow the public to browse through information freely or restrict access by setting up password registration, this case has caused widespread interest.
Registered website users have the right to freely publish articles online, provided that there is no reactionary or pornographic content involved. As such, we have no grounds or right to delete [the posted content].
Yesterday afternoon, the webmaster in charge of China Blog's user service division, SUN Feng Jin, told a Dongfang Morning Edition reporter that they had not yet received any notification from the Court of a lawsuit or subpoena of any sort. "We cannot delete this web entry at the current time because there are no grounds to do so," said SUN. "Registered website users have the right to freely publish articles online, provided that there is no reactionary or pornographic content involved. As such, we have no grounds or right to delete [the posted content]. Furthermore, Professor Chen has not, according to online registration requirements, provided any written materials proving his personal identity, or proving that the person identified in the online posting was him." Yesterday, an employee with the China Internet Association said that the right to delete postings belongs to the individual, and the Association maintains a duty only to warn a member organization and cannot coerce them [to take action]. Moreover, China Blog is not a member organization, such that the Association is powerless in this case.
For example say a person is hit by a car while walking on the road. He should investigate and open a case on the owners of all the cars responsible, but not the owners of the road.
Director Chen of Jiangsu Delta Law Firm advised that, firstly, Chen should charge the person responsible for the posting as the defendant: "If a person is hit by a car while walking on the road, he should investigate and open a case on the owners of all the cars responsible, and not the owners of the road." A lawyer from Jiangsu De Yong Heng Law Firm, MENG Lan Kai, said this [case] touches upon the problematic clash between [one's] right to privacy and [citizens'] Constitutional rights. Freedom of speech is endowed to citizens through the Constitution. Users who post on online blogs are realizing their freedom of speech. As websites are a platform for conducting open discussion, [individuals other than the registered user] should not be allowed to delete content only on whim, but should only delete content in which there is clear intent to curse and attack [someone]. "However, the measure for making this type of judgment is not readily evident, and perhaps does not correlate to the detailed rules and regulations stipulated in legal statutes."
It is reported that the Court will call to order a hearing in the next few days to try this case.
Blogs are a form of network journaling. Blog users who have sucessfully applied for registry to have their own webpage, once they have obtained their own webpage, are free to pass on articles and express their viewpoints as they wish in a journal-like format. These journal-style articles have already become either available for public browsing or through password-restricted access. In June, 2003, China Blog (blogcn.com) user Muzimei posted a sexual journal, thus soliciting a great number of visitors [to the site]. From then on, the term "blogger" became one of the hottest keywords used in online search engines.
Source: Dongfang Morning Edition
At Electronic Frontier Foundation, there is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) section on Online Defamation Law. It would seem that according to American law, "Long Stockings" was expressing a personal opinion (“rotten person,” “rotten materials,” “simply a good-for-nothing”) and therefore did not commit defamation.