Shu Fanny, an actress from TaiwanA well-known actress has turned a cold shoulder to China's most popular microblogging service after being humiliated online, prompting calls for taming the cyber-bullying hitting the world's largest Internet population.
Shu Fanny, an actress from Taiwan and a Golden Horse Award winner, became the latest high-profile victim of cyber-bulling in an online squabble that simmered for weeks.
Shu deleted all of her 8,000 posts and stopped following all accounts Monday on Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like microblogging service, after voicing her support for Donnie Yen.
"Donnie Yen is dedicated to, and serious about, work," Shu wrote on her microblog.
Her simple post garnered thousands of abusive comments, and users even forwarded a poster from a pornographic film Shu shot when she was 17. Many believed the backlash against Shu was linked to a fierce battle raging online between the fans of Donnie Yen and Chiu Man-Cheuk, two Chinese actors.
Shu's departure from the microblog community shocked her 10 million followers and prompted tens of thousands of Internet users to reflect on cyber-bullying.
Dozens of celebrities like Yao Chen, who has the most-followed Weibo account, at 18 million followers, took to their microblogs to voice support for Shu, soothing the actress and denouncing widespread verbal abuse on Chinese websites.
"I oppose violence, including words that will harm people. Those who hurt Shu are pitiful and ridiculous," Hong Kong director Gordon Chan, who is also the chairman of Hong Kong Film Awards Association, wrote on his Sina Weibo account.
Prior to the incident involving Shu, it has been common for most public affairs to encounter some degree of cyber-bullying, including online assaults lodged against a handicapped Olympic torch-runner and even a primary school student.
"Cyber-bullying tortures emotions, but unlike physical violence, there is no law in China explicitly banning online violence," said Xu Yan, dean of the psychology department of Beijing Normal University.
Xu believed the rampant cyber-bullying in China is the result of people needing to blow off steam about real-life events.
"Frustration in life boosts aggression. So people's discontent has been funneled into cyberspace, where they can act with little restraint," Xu added.
Xia Xueluan, a sociology professor with Peking University, agreed. "The lack of regulations decreases our self-control, leading to random assaults on the Internet."
The glut of online abuse could also be attributed to social networking's ability to reinforce users' sense of conformity, Xia said. "The abuse becomes a mass rally."
As the incident with Shu Fanny unfolded, Sina Corp. made an appeal for courtesy through the company's microblog account on Thursday, promising it will contain cyber-bullying on Sina Weibo by revising regulations.
"To reduce cyber-bullying, we, the users, must control our behavior, too," Xia said. "The increasing transparency of cyberspace requires us to act more responsibly."
Xia also advocated cautious legislation to control cyber-bullying, saying the real-name account registration requirement might curb rampant verbal abuse.
Legislation aimed at controlling cyber-bullying has been introduced in a number of U.S. states, including New York, Missouri, and California. The Republic of Korea also considered revising bills to penalize cyber-bullying and help the bullied, after the country's beloved actress Choi Jin-Sil committed suicide in 2008, an action partly caused by malicious online comments.
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