BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The State Internet Information Office (SIIO) on Saturday denied that the recent crackdown on online rumor mongers is meant to rein in public opinion.
The online rumor crackdown will help protect the legal right to freedom of speech, said an unidentified official with the office in response to public concern following detainment of several Internet users over allegation of rumor spreading.
Several people, including some well-known Internet personalities, were detained for spreading or fabricating rumors on the Internet in a war waged by the SIIO aimed at maintaining an orderly online environment.
It is misleading to say "Xue Manzi" was arrested for his outspoken online speech, said the official, referring to the detainment of Chinese-American investor Xue Biqun.
"Xue was arrested for alleged group sex with prostitutes and other illegal acts, but it has nothing to do with his identity as an online celebrity," the official added.
China unveiled new rules to create judicial boundaries for criminal online speech or conduct early this month.
According to a judicial interpretation issued by China's top court and procuratorate, individuals will face defamation charges if the online rumors they create are viewed by at least 5,000 Internet users or retweeted 500 or more times.
"It should be differentiated between people who fabricate or spread rumors on purpose and those who do so unintentionally," the official said.
Network service providers will also bear joint liability if they are found to have spotted online violations by their clients but fail to curb illegal activities, the official said.