China’s new internet based court began operations on Friday, paving the way for more cases to be heard over video conferencing. The Hangzhou Internet Court spent 20 minutes on its first case, with legal counsels from Hangzhou and Beijing virtually representing their clients.
For now, the internet courts will be confined to civil matters, leaving criminal trials to the regular physical courts. It’s first hearing was regarding a copyright infringement claim between a writer and an online distributor.
In the future, the courts will also be allowed to directly intervene in e-commerce disputes on marketplaces like Taobao.
The idea is that online hearings will cut down costs and time for all parties involved. Lawsuits can be filed in as little as five minutes, making it easier for consumers to seek judicial protection from the courts. Of course, the ease of filing complaints may also lead to a more litigious society.
However, the internet court is also designed to increase transparency in China. The hearings are being publicly streamed, allowing just about anyone to watch the proceedings.
Despite this, the internet court has its own critics. Some say that the livestream could expose private information online; which has its own problems. Especially since the internet is the last place that anyone wants their personal information floating around.