Victim of internet 'lynch mob' wins compensation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 December, 2008, 12:00am

A man who was 'lynched' on the internet after his wife revealed his extramarital affair before killing herself will receive 3,000 yuan (HK$3,400) from a mainland website and 5,000 yuan from one of his wife's friends, Xinhua reported yesterday.

In a landmark decision by Beijing's Chaoyang District Court, Zhang Leyi , the wife's friend, and must compensate Wang Fei for the mental suffering, invasion of privacy and damage to his reputation that resulted when the website and the netizen said the plaintiff's wife, Jiang Yan, had committed suicide because of his affair.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind on the mainland involving a 'human flesh search', and the legal action raised a nationwide debate over whether the National People's Congress should tighten laws regarding online activities.

The report cited the court as saying and Mr Zhang had defamed and violated Mr Wang's privacy by releasing information online about the extramarital affair and publishing personal details, including pictures and his employer's name. The release of the information triggered a storm of rebuke online that spilled over into real life, resulting in the plaintiff losing his job and his family being threatened.

Jiang committed suicide in December last year after she detailed her husband's affair, to which he confessed in court, in an online diary over two months.

Twelve hours after the suicide, an unnamed netizen posted Jiang's diaries on a popular bulletin board, and in January, Mr Zhang set up a personal website, revealing further details of the affair and some of Mr Wang's personal information.

On January 14, launched a special package of reports on Jiang's suicide and Mr Wang's affair.

Jiang's diary was quickly picked up by internet users who, in turn, used search engines to find and post more personal information about Mr Wang, his alleged mistress, his employer and his family.

In April, Mr Wang sued the defendants for invading his privacy and damaging his reputation.

Hundreds of netizens nationwide reportedly flew to Beijing to attend the hearing later that month.