Cyberbullying taking over the classroom? Stop generating discrimination and conflicts

What happened?

In October 2022, the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic still loomed large over much of China. In a central province of China, Henan Province, to comply with the policies to combat COVID-19, a silent lockdown had been in place for a month. In such a unique environment, the educational needs of the vast number of students could not be delayed, transitioning from offline to online classes. Just when everything should have been proceeding in an orderly manner, a shocking incident occurred.

On October 28, Liu Hanbo, a high school teacher who lived alone, lost contact with her family and friends after finishing her last online class on Friday. Two days later, she was found dead at home, the cause of death being a sudden heart attack.

This seemingly ordinary tragedy gradually came to public attention through a post made by Liu’s daughter online a few days later. Liu’s daughter claimed that her mother’s death was related to her online classes. In the post, she alleged that her mother had been subjected to severe online harassment, originating from her online classroom. During classes, more than one stranger had forcibly entered the virtual classroom meetings from outside, posting disruptive and vulgar comments accompanied by unpleasant noise. These incidents made it almost impossible for Liu to continue her classes, as she had to expend a considerable amount of energy on how to drive out the intruders, significantly impeding the progress of her teaching. According to Liu’s daughter’s recollection, such situations had occurred several times. Since mid-October, Liu’s online classes had frequently been disrupted by unrelated individuals who would suddenly enter the livestream and make disruptive remarks. In the emotional post published by Liu’s daughter, she accused: “Are you, the culprit who caused my mother’s death, reading this article? Let me tell you, whether you feel guilty or not now is of no use. Crocodile tears will never evoke sympathy. Currently, our family has filed a report, and an investigation is underway. Don’t feel lucky because you are a minor; there will be consequences for your actions, and you will be severely punished by the law (Ze Zhao, 2022)!”

Liu’s students also expressed regret over the matter, considering her a very dedicated and responsible teacher who ultimately met such an unfortunate end. According to their recollections, Liu initially reacted with anger towards these disruptive “hackers” in her online classes, then moved to a sense of helplessness, and eventually became numb to the situation. Some students even offered suggestions to Liu on how to deal with the situation, but to no avail. They wondered about the motives behind the frequent intrusion of troublemakers into their online classes and who had “let them in.” In Liu’s final online class, scenes of chaos were described by students, surpassing in scale and duration any previous disruptions. The troublemakers used numerous vulgar internet memes and music to wreak disorder for an extended period during the class, leaving Liu, as the host, completely unable to control the situation. Liu had attempted to plead with them to stop the disturbance, but only received further insults and abuse in return. She was moved to tears at one point, ultimately bringing an end to the live stream of the class.


In recent years, online classes have become a significant part of education. However, the emergence of online violence, represented by “classroom bombing,” has indeed become a major challenge to cybersecurity. So, what is “classroom bombing”? “Classroom bombing” refers to the act of participants in an online class leaking the meeting ID and password, followed by organized intrusion by malicious individuals into the online classroom. They disrupt the teaching order by forcefully taking over the screen, flooding the chat with harassing messages, and even resorting to extreme methods such as insulting teachers and students or playing inappropriate videos. Those who disrupt the order of the meeting are referred to as “bombers (Peng, 2022).” 

Online hate speech is like a sharp blade, causing physical and mental harm to both students and teachers, threatening their well-being and disrupting the public order of online classrooms. Online hate speech and its amplification through digital platforms and social media have been identified as significant and growing issues of concern (Flew, 2021). In the tragedy involving Teacher Liu, what were the underlying causes, and what catalyzed the hate speech that led to the tearful departure of this dedicated and responsible teacher? Hate speech has been defined as speech that ‘expresses, encourages, stirs up, or incites hatred against a group of individuals distinguished by a particular feature or set of features such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation’ (Parekh, 2012, p. 40). In this incident, students and teachers, as the most basic units in the school, are also the most likely to be filled with contradictions and misunderstandings. As qualified teachers, they should wholeheartedly impart their knowledge to students, urging them to achieve learning objectives while guiding them to navigate the ocean of knowledge and igniting their interest in learning. Students should also strive to learn knowledge to the best of their ability. Ideally, the relationship between students and teachers should be one of mentorship and friendship. However, due to differences in students’ personalities and qualities, as well as variations in teaching methods among teachers, even a slight misstep can trigger conflicts, leading to the deterioration of relationships. In recent years, tragedies resulting from the deterioration of teacher-student relationships have been all too common, especially news of students choosing to end their lives due to discrimination from teachers, which is always lamentable.

It’s evident that the harm caused by hate speech is akin to more overt physical injuries. This type of speech isn’t just offensive or emotionally hurtful; it can lead to lasting harm because verbal attacks can cause psychological trauma. While teachers and students typically don’t have a clear power imbalance in the school environment, in the unique context of online classrooms, such as in this incident, students allowed an external malicious group to enter the class environment and subjected the teacher to verbal abuse. In this scenario, the teacher, like Ms. Liu, unfortunately found herself in a relatively vulnerable position. As Parekh outlines, hate speech characteristically “stigmatizes the target group by implicitly or explicitly ascribing to it qualities widely regarded as highly undesirable (Parekh, 2012, p. 41).” This negative attribution then casts the target group as undesirable and legitimate objects of hostility. Some students don’t want to attend class or dislike their teacher? Let the “trolls” take care of it all! It’s a form of severe “verbal assault.” Ms. Liu’s emotional breakdown in her final online class is heartbreaking, and the instigators behind her ultimately fatal heart attack bear undeniable responsibility. Regardless of whether their actions were merely intended as pranks, it was an unacceptable and inappropriate means of behavior.

According to the data from the “Fifth National Survey on Internet Use among Chinese Minors,” the number of underage internet users in China reached 193 million in 2022, with a penetration rate of 97.2%. Moreover, 87.0% of underage internet users possess their own internet-access devices. As internet technology continues to evolve in the digital age, while it brings convenience to people’s lives, it also provides fertile ground for the proliferation of online violence. In response to this emerging form of online violence, particularly in the context of online classrooms, governments and platforms should develop new strategies for addressing it. 

Regulation of government and nline platforms

On November 4th, the Cyberspace Administration of China issued the “Notice on Strengthening the Governance of Online Violence” (referred to as the “Notice”), aiming to enhance the crackdown on online violence. The “Notice” requires website platforms to establish and improve emergency protection mechanisms according to their own characteristics, provide one-click protection functions, and protect users from harassment and harm caused by online violent information. Website platforms that have clusters of online violent information, inadequate prevention mechanisms, delayed handling of reports, or cause severe consequences will be punished according to the law. At the same time, strict measures will be taken against online violent behavior, and those involving illegal activities will be handed over to relevant departments to pursue legal responsibilities according to the law (Feng, 2022).

The well-known entertainment app Douyin in mainland China released its annual review of online violence governance on January 9, 2023. Throughout the year, it issued warnings and handled 5,004 incidents related to improper comments, with 2.2 million users participating in anti-online violence initiatives. For the first time, it introduced free third-party legal aid. Douyin stated that it will be committed to upgrading its technological iteration strategy in the long term and will continue to work with all sectors of society to oppose and resist online violence.

Due to the particularity of “classroom bombing,” the difficulty of governance has increased compared to the past. The most typical characteristic is its “anonymity,” which is the same as the natural attribute of the online world. The inherent difficulty in governance lies in the fact that even with the introduction of a “whitelist” mechanism in software, it is not possible to completely solve the problem of real-name registration. Even if the problem of real-name registration is solved, the experience of communicating with others while wearing a “digital mask” is completely different from face-to-face interaction offline. People are more likely to release their extreme emotions freely when not using their real identities.

The two most widely used online classroom platforms in mainland China, DingTalk and Tencent Meeting, have both issued statements and announcements. DingTalk stated that they will continue to improve security conventions and protocols. When teachers conduct teaching activities on their platform, they can choose the online classroom mode. Before class, they can independently create class groups and then enter the online class from the class group. Other non-group members cannot invade through meeting room passwords or invitation codes. Tencent Meeting has launched a one-click “pause participant activities” function for “classroom intrusion” and released the “Joint Guidelines! Online Classroom Anti-Intrusion Guidelines.” In this guide, Tencent Meeting provides various pre-meeting settings to ensure the security of online classrooms and meet the teaching needs of various scenarios such as classes, seminars, and defenses. For example, meeting passwords + waiting rooms, meeting registration, WeChat specially invited meetings, etc.


In the digital age, online classrooms represent a novel form of education, and safeguarding the cybersecurity of teachers and students within them is paramount. To stem the proliferation of online violence, it’s crucial not to regard the internet realm as beyond the reach of the law, nor should we underestimate the significance of preventing online violence. This calls for concerted efforts from governments, internet platforms, businesses, and individual users alike. The implications extend beyond the physical and mental well-being of students; it also necessitates parents and teachers prioritizing everyday education and actively resisting the infiltration of vulgar online trends into the classroom. It’s imperative to prevent the intrusion of online classrooms from evolving into an industry chain. Through collaborative endeavors across various sectors, we must endeavor to nip this issue in the bud.


Flew, T. (2021). Disinformation and Fake News. In Regulating Platforms. Cambridge: Polity. (pp. 115-116)

Ze, Z. (2022, November 2). My mother’s death is related to cyberbullying. [Weibo post]. Weibo.

Guangming Daily. (2022, December 20). Who is disrupting the teaching order? Behind the “online class intrusion”.

Pengpai News. (2022, November 3). Who is behind the “online class intrusion”? What responsibilities do various parties need to bear? Platforms have already begun to adjust.

Fengmian News. (2022, November 3). Netizens have created an “Anti-Online Class Intrusion Handbook”. DingTalk: 3 methods to avoid harassment.

Meng, Y. (2024). Launching an anti-online violence initiative, launching a “Reject Online Violence Zone,” and releasing a 2023 online violence governance review by Douyin.

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