U.S. media companies are forever instructing their employees to exercise caution regarding what they tweet, what they re-tweet, what they post on Facebook and so on. Consequences for the dumb, offensive, false or poorly conceived include reputational harm, embarrassment for the entire news organization and even loss of employment.

All of which sound minor compared with the consequences that’ll greet Web misuse in China. Just check out these first paragraphs from a story on that country’s crackdown on Web rumor-mongering:

BEIJING, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) — People who post defamatory comments online in China will face up to three years in prison if their statements are widely reposted, according to a judicial interpretation issued on Monday.

The document, released by the Supreme People’s Court (SPP) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, stipulates that people will face defamation charges if online rumors they post are viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users or retweeted more than 500 times.

If those posting rumors are repeat offenders, or if their online rumors caused the victim or the victim’s immediate family members to commit self-mutilation or suicide or experience mental disorders, they may also face defamation charges.

Bolded text added to highlight one of many, many questions about this “judicial interpretation”: How are these cause-and-effect relationships going to be proven?

(h/t Business Insider)