A Study of Human Flesh Search and Its Social and Ethical Issues

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A study of Human Flesh Search and its social and ethical issues

Abstract: Human Flesh Search (HFS) is one of the biggest Chinese internet phenomena. It has attracted great interest from IT specialists, legalists, sociologists and criminologists. This essay analyses how HFS works based on a typical case of the “Kitten Killer” and then the advantages and disadvantages of HFS were canvassed. In addition, the social and ethical issues surrounding HFS will be investigated. Finally, a solution will be presented, concentrating specifically on the importance of keeping a balance between information and power.

With the rising number of Chinese netizens and the development of internet forums, blogs and BBS (Bulletin Board System) technology, freedom of information is becoming more and more common. As a result, a revolution in online search -Human Flesh Search has appeared and grown rapidly in recent years. It is defined as a Chinese internet phenomenon that uses massive computer mediated participation to purify the information from search engines and internet media. What is revolutionary is the way that humans, instead of machines, actually deal with the search questions and therefore there is increasing accuracy in the search results. That’s why it is considered as a “human flesh search”, humans do the searching.

Here is s an example that can help people understand more deeply how HFS works. Early in the year of 2006, a horrible video of a smiling woman killing a kitten by stomping on it with the sharp point of her high heel, was uploaded and spread through the internet. Most people were angry at this inhuman behavior, so they turned to the human flesh search engine to find out who she was in reality. They hoped justice could be done and their purpose was to punish her by exposing and shaming her in front of her neighbours, families, friends and colleagues. In the Mop forum (http://dzh.mop.com/), a user even wrote “Find her and kick her to death like she did to the kitten!” With a post asking “Is there a front-facing photo so we can see her more clearly?”, the human flesh search had begun. Netizens traced the e-mail address associated with the site to a server in Hangzhou city. A follow-up post asked about where the video was taken: “Are users from Hangzhou familiar with this place?” Locals reported that there was nowhere in Hangzhou that looked like the backdrop in the video. Furthermore, the story was reported on television and in newspapers as the extension of the event, and people all around China saw the kitten killer’s photo. “I know this woman,” wrote the user “I’m Not Desert Angel “four days after the search began. She continued with “She’s not in Hangzhou. She lives in a small town in northeastern China. God, she’s a nurse! That’s all I can say.” Only six days after the first Mop post about the video, the kitten killer was found in Luobei city, and her name Wang Jiao was made public, as well as her phone number and her employer. The perpetrator Wang Jiao and the cameraman who filmed her were fired from what the Chinese call iron rice bowls; government jobs that have a good salary and a work guarantee. From this kitten killer case, it is obvious that the HFS is highly efficient. It does display an awe-inspiring power. Wang Jiao’s life had been ruined in just 6 days. She lost her good job, and it would be almost impossible for her to get a new one. Most importantly, she would be thought of as a cruel, mad person by others and would be hated or treated unfairly in society. She has paid for her mistake. But it is questionable about whether she deserved such severe punishment. This is only one of the cases. There are a number of positive and negative cases which have happened over the last few years. In recent years, the Human Flesh Search has become an international web phenomenon. From 2001 to May 2010, there were a total number of 405 episodes which had occurred in the world, with 392 taking place in China, 6...
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