A businessman in China is facing a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence and a million yuan ($150,000) fine for allegedly engaging in the online pornography business. The high-profile trial, which earned massive public support, came to a close on Tuesday Sept. 13.
The verdict, which described Wang’s crime as “distributing obscene materials for personal gain,” was handed down by a Beijing court to 36-year-old internet entrepreneur Wang Xin, reported Quartz.
Wang was the CEO of video streaming and download site Kuaibo (also QVOD), which provided online content links for web and mobile users. The site’s main feature was to direct users to third-party content providers online as it did not host any content.
At one point in 2013, Kuaibo was able to gain around 25% market share of all video app downloads, beating relatively bigger competitors such as Baidu and Youku Tudou.
The website’s nature however, allowed it to be the main source of links for pornographic content and other pirated material, prompting several entertainment and media companies to sue QVOD for $42 million on copyright violation claims in the same year of the site’s peak.
The following year, local authorities conducted a raid at its Shenzhen offices, shutting down all services by revoking its media license on allegations of spreading “lewd and pornographic content.”
Prosecutors alleged that Wang was involved in distributing pornography online during the court case hearing conducted in January.
In response, Wang claimed that his company only provided a platform and was not directly involved in the illegal distribution. He further explained that the company shouldn’t be held accountable for what people use it for.
“The internet is a place where harmful information exists. For every ten million users there will definitely be every kind of obscene sexual content for every user,” Wang said in his testimony.
The case proceedings, which was highly publicized in China earned him tons of support from the online community for his apparent attempt to defend the freedom of information in the country.
Upon the sentencing, however, he and his colleagues did a full turnaround and decided to plead guilty to all charges. Three of his co-executives at Kuaibo must also face similar sentences.
“I would like to apologize to the users of Qvod who we hurt… I hope our case serves as a warning to the industry,” Wang was quoted as saying.
The case that lasted for several years is seen as further reinforcing the Chinese government’s tight grip on the country’s media and other broadcast industries.
The verdict has also gained strong opposition from netizens, with many condemning the government’s efforts to impose restrictions and strictly censor content.
The government’s governing body which monitors media content in China has issued its set of rules that ban tons of content topics on television, including homosexuality to witchcraft among others.