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Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 18:28

QVOD execs get prison in pornography case

By Cao Yin

Four executives of a former popular internet company have been found guilty of using internet technology to spread pornography, judges in Beijing announced on Tuesday.

The four defendants were given prison sentences ranging from three years to three years and six months for broadcasting pornography online, according to a verdict from the Beijing Haidian District People's Court.

Wang Xin, chief executive officer of Shenzhen QVOD Technology in Guangdong province, received the top sentence and was fined 1 million yuan (US$149,700), according to the judgment.

The three other defendants were also fined between 200,000 yuan and 500,000 yuan, it said. The company was ordered to pay a fine of 10 million yuan.

A decision on whether the defendants would appeal to a higher court was still pending, the court said.

Police started to investigate QVOD in late 2013 on suspicion of spreading porn videos online. According to company figures, QVOD had about 400 million users at that time.

Wang, who had fled overseas, was sent back to China in August 2014 after he was the subject of an Interpol red notice. He was officially charged in February 2015.

In January, when the case was first heard at the Haidian court, the prosecuting authority said that police investigated 29,841 videos from four servers seized from the company, of which more than 70 percent contained pornographic content.

The case was heard in Beijing because the investigation began there in 2013 with a probe of a Beijing company that was cooperating with QVOD.

The defendants said they were only operating and providing a new online technical person-to-person service and did not upload any obscene videos themselves.

However, Wu Yangchuan, the judge responsible for the case, said on Tuesday that the executives were well aware of the existence of such a large amount of obscene content on their servers, but "they didn't intervene and indulged the spreading of the pornography".

"A technology or network company has the duty to examine and supervise uploaded information in line with laws, but the defendants did not abide by this," Wu said. "The technical service is fine, but no one can take advantage of new technology to break laws or harm the society."

Wu said technical service providers can avoid punishment only if they are not aware of the uploaded information or have performed their duties to review or supervise the content.

The company also got illicit profits through advertisements attached to the obscene videos, he said. "The more a video was viewed or downloaded, the more money it could obtain indirectly."

In 2013 alone, a business department of the company gained 140 million yuan, and the company's total gains surged since 2008, Wu said.

The company and the behavior of the executives seriously harmed users, especially youngsters, he said, adding that their illicit profits met the "huge amount" defined in Criminal Law, without disclosing the exact amount of the illegal gains.

Since the four defendants pleaded guilty and there was no proof that they had deliberately spread pornography online, "we punished them leniently," said Yang Xiaoming, another judge in the case.

Wang Sixin, a law professor at Communication University of China, said, "Technical services should be encouraged if they promote internet developments, but if someone uses them for illegal practices, they should be restricted in line with laws."

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