As China kicked up its campaign for a more “civilized” Internet, domestic media reported the country’s first-ever lawsuit against Internet spammers, brought by a Beijing resident against two companies in a city district court. The plaintiff alleged incessant e-mails impacted her ability to do her job and violated her rights.

According to an April 10 report in the Beijing Morning Post, plaintiff Mrs. Wang alleged continuously receiving unsolicited e-mail advertising about skills training programs in two private e-mail accounts. The messages, allegedly sent by Guangzhou’s Internet and Computer Company (网络计算机科技公司), advertised the services of Shanghai’s Yijuan Enterprise Management Information Company (上海易腾企业管理咨询公司). Wang sought 1,100 yuan (US$140) in compensation, according to the newspaper. [ABOVE: User bowled over with “Garbage Mail”, from]
On her personal Weblog, Chinese technology reporter Sun Hui suggested removing the system of free e-mail might solve the issue, and called new regulations issued by China’s Ministry of Information Industry (MII) in March a good first step toward resolving the e-mail spam problem in China. Sun’s posting is translated below:
“Oftentimes, we simply tolerate the evil of junk e-mail, partly because there’s so much of it we can’t prevent it, and partly because we haven’t felt it’s reached a point of such seriousness that it has trampled our rights, not to the point where we want to use the tool of the law to protect ourselves. And when it has reached this point, the question is where to go, because for a long time there have not been clear methods or programs for dealing with junk e-mail. But beginning March 30 this year, with the passing of ‘Methods for Internet Mail Service Management’ by the MII (‘Methods’ for short), there is a ray of hope.
“Article 15 of the ‘Methods’ states clearly: Internet mail service providers and those who make use of their services should accept reports of offenses from users concerning Internet mail, and provide a means for users to offer such reports. From the standpoint of users, this opens a door for redress. As to whether e-mail service providers will be fair and reasonable in accepting user complaints, this remains to be seen. But the ‘Methods’ do represent a real breakthrough for how China deals with junk mail. Even though the above legal case [brought by Mrs. Wang] has not yet been decided, and we don’t know whether such cases will be taken on by the courts, a victory in the case would be an encouragement to China’s Internet using masses.
“Policies and methods [on this issue] mean users can rely on rule of law, and this is a good thing. Relying solely on the power of the government is not enough. Can Internet mail service providers and those who use their services fight junk mail together with the government? Actually, one reason for the serious nature of junk mail is the fact that e-mails are free of charge; if there were appropriate charges for such mail, I believe the junk mail problem would largely be solved. Of course, such specifics as how to charge, and how much, requires more discussion and market research. Ever since the Internet began, e-mail usage has been synonymous with ‘free’. If we now want to change this, it would not be such an easy thing.”
Reports of the case in Beijing came just one day after fourteen leading Web portals in the Chinese market, including US-based Yahoo, issued a joint proposal on April 9 for a “civilized” Internet, free of so-called false and indecent content. The proposal was a nod of assent to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s most recent policy statement calling for a campaign of moral rectification at all levels of Chinese society.
[Posted by David Bandurski, April 18, 2006, 1:24pm]

David Bandurski

CMP Director

Latest Articles