The Chinese government, which maintains tight control over Internet use within the country, is taking steps to manage viral posts.
Earlier this month, authorities seeking to rein in the spread of what they deem "online rumors" warned of arrests for authors of posts shared 500 or more times, or seen by more than 5,000 people. Just over a week later, they made their first move under the law, arresting 16-year-old Yang Hui, a schoolboy in the country's northwestern Gansu Province, who questioned the sincerity of a police investigation into the death of a local man.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Yang wrote about whether the man's death, officially ruled a suicide, may have actually been a homicide. Yang published the following post on Chinese messaging service QQ: "Where is justice? Three days and two nights have passed since the death, and the major media are not reporting the case. ... People still don't know the truth."
The message was reportedly shared 962 times and viewed thousands of times, ultimately landing Yang in violation of the law.
Police in Gansu's Zhangjiachuan district who arrested the boy told China's Global Times that the post led to a public protest involving hundreds of people, thereby "causing traffic jams and severely disturbing public order."
NPR reports Yang's arrest triggered an outcry online; he was later released without charge.
In a phone conversation, the boy's father told NPR that authorities made an example of his son. He said the school "held a big meeting and told the other students not to do what my son did -- post irresponsible comments online."
Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported the new rules are a "means for authorities to ensure the healthy development of the Internet." Those convicted of posting "slanderous comments" that are then widely shared online face sentences of up to three years in prison.