China's "Human Flesh Search Engine" Probably Isn't What You Think It Is


In some respects, MySpace, FriendFinder, and every other social networking site could be considered a human flesh search engine. So could Google, Yahoo, and the rest of the online search portals, particularly when combined with incognito-based browsing. But in China, the seemingly sexual term takes on a completely different meaning than the first one that most likely popped into your head.

Instead, the term refers to vigilante cybermobs who collaborate online to hunt down who they perceive as wrongdoers deserving of the cybermobs' own brand of justice. Take for example of the case of Wang Fei, a former advertising executive. His wife posted several blog posts lamenting her husband's alleged infidelity before she committed suicide by jumping out of the couple's 24th--floor apartment. Following her death, cybermobs posted Wang's personal information on several forums, including his phone numbers, address, and national ID number. Someone painted a slogan on his door that read "A blood debt must be repaid with blood." According to Wang's lawyer, the harassment forced him to resign from his job after his workplace became the subject of abuse, and oftentimes strangers in the street would confront him.

Wang's story isn't an isolated one, though according to at least one expert, large-scale human flesh engines do appear to be unique to China, partially as a result of China's "ingrained tradition of 'people's war' tracing back to Mao."

Could you see this becoming a trend in other parts of the world? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.

Image Credit: New America Media

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