|Scooped by Loren|
Human-Flesh Search Engines: They Will Find You...Eventually
Rénròu Sōusuǒ, known as human-flesh search engines, is a China cyber phenomenon that first developed in 2001 when a user on MOP, a Chinese forum, claimed that the women who he posted a picture of on the forum was his girlfriend. Users on the forum wanted to find out who the women really was, and it was later found that she was model Chen Ziyao, after the fact that they exposed her personal information, just to prove that the guy who posted her picture was lying.
According to Tapia and Schoellkopf's Vimeo video, Human Flesh Search engine:Part 1, "human-flesh search engine is a behavior; it is an online collaboration to find and reveal information about a person that has provoked outrage among Netizens". Do citizens of China have the right to expose, exploit, and ruin a person's reputation in order to receive justice for their society?
"Currently we have no legislation protecting people's privacy in China," he said. "On the other hand, Chinese netizens are not mature enough to control their own online behavior" ("Human flesh search engine: an Internet lynching?") Unlike the United States, there are no laws protecting the privacy of China's citizens. In fact, one of the main reasons why so many people in China participate in human-flesh search engines is due to cultural beliefs. Xujun Eberlein, an American Chinese author and commentator, states that one of the five virtues in the Confucian tradition is that "righteous people tend to take matters into their own hands" (qtd. O'Brein, Forbes). Thus, human-flesh search engines serve as doing a good deed and receiving justice for the Chinese society. In addition, the Chinese government is not regulated by censors or government regulation (Downey), which also goes hand in hand with the undemocratic government of China (Explainer:What is a human flesh search engine?).
However, some may disagree (like myself), that human-search engines are ethical. In some cases human-flesh search engines are for good purposes. For example, in an earthquake that took place in Sichuan, a solider working with the relief effort posted a message online to help find his pregnant wife who was stranded in the effected area; the online search found her in 24 hours. Another positive instance involves Deng Yujiao who was charged with the murder of an government official with a pedicure knife. It was later found out, by reporter Wu Gan, that the official tried to rape Yujiao and she was later released without charge ( Explainer: What is a human flesh search engine?).
However, throughout my research, I found more than several instances of negative outcomes that human-flesh search engines have had on society, including the United States. The issues of freedom of expression, privacy, slander, and cyber bullying are all involved with human-flesh search engines. Some examples are:
-- Zhang Ya posted a video of herself complaining that her show was interrupted by earthquake reportage. Netizens searched and threaten to kill her, all over a video she posted expressing how she felt.
--Wang Fei, who committed adultery and was blamed for the death of his wife successfully sued Daqi, Tianya and the blog provider of his dead wife’s blog for slander. "His cell phone number, student ID, work contacts, and even his brother's license-plate was revealed [to the public]" (Downey).
--Jessi Slaughther (not her real name) from the United States was a victim of a human-flesh search engine as well. She received much criticism and hatred from her YouTube video. Her real name, address, links to all her social accounts, and phone number was exploited to the public. She started to receive prank calls and death threats which resulted in her and her family to be placed under police protection.
--Ding Jinhoa, a 15-year old boy, received much criticism for defacing a Egyptian relic. The human-flesh searcher identified him, and later his parents had to contact local media to apologize for their son's actions. In this case, I agree that they went "too far in hunting down a minor and harassing him and his family" (Kharel) and that people should have offered "more protection and education should be given to him rather than criticism" (qtd. Kharel).
China's government has thought of the idea of requiring online bloggers and forum users to register with their real name. There was a law enacted that states if officials were found to leak their own personal information that could then be found by the human-flesh search engine, they, the officials, could receive a three year jail sentence (O'Brien). This brings up an important point: people, no matter if you are a governmental official, a regular person who works a nine to five, or even the underemployed Chinese citizens who take part in the human search engines, should have more responsibility in protecting their information and be cautious of what they put online.
"A survey by the China Youth Daily last week showed that 79.9 percent of the 2,491 netizens polled believed that Renrou search should be regulated, 65.5 percent thought it might become a new way of venting anger and revenge, 64.6 percent said it infringing privacy, and 20.1 percent feared that they would become a target" (Human flesh search engine: an internet lynching?). Some citizens of China live in fear that they would become a victim of the human-flesh search engine and that it should be regulated. However, the human-flesh search engine is an important outlet for Chinese citizens not to only receive information, it is an actual part of their culture and possibly will not be stopped anytime soon unless there are solid laws enacted to protect the privacy of citizens.