The Circulation of Sex Photos and the Protection of Online Privacy: The Case of the People’s Republic of China

 

Ms. Mei Ning Yan

The authorities in the People’s Republic of China have imposed strict censorship on online content since the mid-1990s, when the country first allowed its nationals access to the Internet. In recent years, however, it has been commonplace to find indecent or even obscene photos/videos on many Chinese websites. Some of these photos/videos involve explicit sex scenes that were either posted or taken without the consent of the individuals concerned. In the summer of 2012, around the time that naked photos of Prince Harry taken during his visit to Las Vegas proliferated over the Internet, more than a hundred photos showing group sex between six Chinese nationals were spreading like wildfire among Chinese netizens, and other such incidents followed later in the year. Sex photos of local officials said to be corrupt and misbehaving were posted online, and some mainstream Chinese media republished several such photos on their websites. This presentation examines why current Chinese laws and legislation have failed to protect the privacy of the affected individuals, and whether new guidelines and pending legislative proposals will improve the situation. 

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