Two men in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, were put under criminal investigation on Friday for alleged internet-based defamation.
Police in Hangzhou's Yuhang district said one of the men, surnamed Lang, secretly recorded a video of a woman surnamed Gu when she was accepting a delivery in July, and to attract attention online made fake chat records with a friend surnamed He and posted them online.
The fake chats attracted widespread attention on social media as their made-up content gave the impression Gu, described as a rich and beautiful married woman, was having an affair with a delivery man.
Improper comments on the internet criticized Gu's alleged behavior, and the incident not only sparked discussion among her friends and neighbors but also led to her dismissal from the company where she worked.
After being treated for depression, Gu decided to seek legal help, and the two men were given nine days' administrative detention on Aug 13 after a police investigation found they were responsible for the chat content.
ThePaper.cn, an online news portal, said Gu was upset with the tone of a subsequent video apology by the two men and sought compensation for the loss of her job.
She filed a criminal complaint of online defamation against the two men on Oct 26, and the Yuhang court accepted the case on Dec 14.
Incidents of online defamation have been on the rise in China. A judicial interpretation issued by China's top court and procuratorate in September 2013 said people who post slanderous comments online can face up to three years in prison if their statements are widely reposted.
The ruling also clarified the definition of a "serious case" of spreading false information or rumors online, including those that cause mental anguish to the victims of rumors.
Zhejiang's procuratorate said Lang and He had not only violated Gu's personal rights, but had also seriously disturbed the internet and social order, as the influence of the incident was still unfolding.