Chinese Internet users now could face up to three years in prison for writing what the government calls irresponsible rumors.
New guidelines issued by China's top court and prosecutor say defamatory messages are considered serious if they are viewed more than 5,000 times or reposted more than 500 times on blogs or social media networks such as Weibo. The new rules contain prohibitions against blackmail, extortion and provoking online arguments.
Proponents of the new guidelines saidin an interview with VOA that standardization will help enforce the law.
However, opponents such as human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang say the rules are useless.
"I would consider it lazy to simply believe that a certain rumor could lead to turmoil without looking into other reasons that have caused the turmoil," Pu said. "In addition, I don't believe these two judicial interpretations will have any real vigor in the future. They are not usable and will be cast away very soon."
The Chinese government has been engaged in a high-profile anti-rumor campaign for several months.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin service.