Two Web portals have been sued in China for spreading false information on a Sinopec executive on the Internet.
The portals itxinwen.com and china.com, charged at Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court, had carried the rumor, which was forwarded online more than 110,000 times within three days, China Daily reported on Friday.
The woman surnamed Zhang, an official at Chinese oil company Sinopec Group, was targeted earlier this year by Fu Xueshang, president of Shanghai LabInfo Technologies, in a rumor that she received sex briberies from a construction company which later won a bid from Sinopec.
Zhang then sued the two companies claiming they were also responsible for damaging her reputation. Zhu Wei, Zhang's lawyer said the rumor had disrupted her work and daily life, and asked for the companies to pay 100,000 yuan (US$16,330) in compensation.
"The two companies forwarded the rumor without verifying it and used eye-catching pictures to attract netizens," Zhu said.
However, Yao Kefeng, the attorney for itxinwen.com, rejected the claim, stating the Web companies are not legally bound to check the authenticity of information.
"What a network company should do is to verify whether information on its website is violent, obscene or harmful to the national interest. We are not able to verify all information," he said.
The lawsuit comes amid a nationwide clampdown on online rumors. So far, prominent Chinese venture capitalist Charles Xue Biqun, investigative journalist Liu Hu, and Weibo users Yang Xiuyu and Qin Zhihui have been arrested and detained for fabricating online rumors.
As of August 15, 2013, in the Chinese province of Shanxi, 23 people were arrested and 27 Web sites were shut down during a crackdown on illegal online activity, according to China Daily. The individuals and sites were suspected of releasing false information online, using the Internet for blackmail or engaging in online fraud.