Human Flesh Search Engine

flesh

Human Flesh Search (HFS) is a primarily Chinese internet phenomenon of massive researching using Internet media such as blogs and forums. It has generally been stigmatized as being for the purpose of identifying and exposing individuals to public humiliation, usually out of Chinese nationalistic sentiment, or conversely, to break the Internet censorship in China.

More recent analyses, however, have shown that it is also used for a number of other reasons, including exposing government corruption, identifying hit and run drivers, and outing scientific fraud, as well as for more entertainment related items such as identifying people seen in pictures. The system is based on massive human collaboration. The name refers both to the use of knowledge contributed by human beings through social networking, as well as the fact that the searches are usually dedicated to finding the identity of a human being who has committed some sort of offense or social breach online. People conducting such research are commonly referred to collectively as ‘Human Flesh Search Engines.’

Because of the convenient and efficient nature of information sharing in cyberspace, the Human Flesh Search is often used to acquire information usually difficult or impossible to find by other conventional means (such as a library or web search engines). Such information, once available, can be rapidly distributed to hundreds of websites, making it an extremely powerful mass media. The purposes of human flesh search vary from providing technical/professional Q&A support, to revealing private/classified information about specific individuals or organizations (therefore breaching the internet confidentiality and anonymity). Because personal knowledge or unofficial (sometimes illegal) access are frequently depended upon to acquire this information, the reliability and accuracy of such searches often vary.

Over the years, the Human Flesh Search was repeatedly deployed, sometimes fueling moral crusades against socially unacceptable behaviors, such as political corruption, extramarital affairs, animal cruelties or perceived betrayal/hostilities towards the Chinese nation. Individuals on the receiving end often have their real-life identities or private information made public, and can be subjected to harassment such as hate mails/calls, death threats, graffiti and social humiliation. Organizations can be subjected to coordinated cyber-attacks. The Baojia system of community rule-of-law in ancient China bears strong similarities with Human Flesh Search. Both are based on some form of vigilantism.

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