BEIJING, April 17 (Xinhua) -- A Beijing district court on Thursday gave an Internet rumormonger who defamed celebrities and the government a three-year jail term.
Qin Zhihui, known as "Qinhuohuo" in cyberspace, was sentenced by the Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court to two years on defamation charges and another year for affray.
He was found guilty of spreading rumors about several celebrities including popular television hostess Yang Lan, as well as China's former Ministry of Railways, via Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, from 2012 to 2013.
Qin is the first person to appear in court on rumormongering charges since the Ministry of Public Security vowed to target those who spread online rumors last August.
Prosecutors said in the court that Qin's widely spread posts included one claiming that Beijing had granted 30 million euros (41 million U.S. dollars) in compensation to a foreigner who died in a train crash in east China's Zhejiang Province in 2011.
The rumor was reposted 11,000 times and commented on 3,300 times, with Qin's fabrication inciting anger over apparent disparities in how foreigners and Chinese were compensated after the accident.
The court held that Qin's actions impacted society and seriously harmed social order, but said it used leniency in the sentence taking into consideration his attitude in confessing truthfully about what he did.
Qin, a 30-year-old native of central China's Hunan Province, worked for a Beijing-based information company that provides online marketing services, before he was arrested by police last August.
His online hyping using his own online accounts turned the man with only high-school education into an Interntet celebrity.
China began in September last year to implement a 10-clause judicial interpretation which defines what kind of online behavior could be regarded as "fabricating facts to slander others" and what could be regarded as "serious" violations.
It rules that people face defamation charges if online rumors they post are viewed by more than 5,000 netizens or retweeted more than 500 times.
According to a report issued by the China Internet Network Information Center in January, China has 490 million consumers of online news, 430 million bloggers, 270 million people using microblogs, and 277 million social network users.
The Internet has become an expression tool for citizens and their primary source of information and a crucial platform in shaping public opinion, the report said.