Human flesh search engine

Last updated

Human flesh search engine (Chinese : 人肉搜索 ; pinyin :Rénròu Sōusuǒ) is a Chinese term for the phenomenon of distributed researching using Internet media such as blogs and forums. Internet media, namely dedicated websites and Internet forums, are in fact platforms that enable the broadcast of request and action plans concerning human flesh search and that allow the sharing of online and offline search results. Human flesh search has two eminent characteristics. First, it involves strong offline elements including information acquisition through offline channels and other types of offline activism. Second, it always relies on voluntary crowd sourcing: Web users gather together to share information, conduct investigations, and perform other actions concerning people or events of common interest. [1]

Contents

Human flesh search engine is similar to the concept of "doxing". Both human flesh search engine and doxing have generally been stigmatized as being for the purpose of identifying and exposing individuals to public humiliation, sometimes out of vigilantism, nationalist or patriotic sentiments, or to break the Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China. [2] [3] More recent analyses, however, have shown that it is also used for a number of other reasons, including exposing government corruption, [4] identifying hit and run drivers, and exposing scientific fraud, as well as for more "entertainment"-related items such as identifying people seen in pictures. A categorization of hundreds of Human flesh search (HFS) episodes can be found in the 2010 IEEE Computer Society paper A Study of the Human Flesh Search Engine: Crowd-Powered Expansion of Online Knowledge. [1]

The system is based on massive human collaboration. The name refers both to the use of knowledge contributed by human beings through social networking, and to 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. [5] 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 medium. 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.

Etymology

The term originated on the Mop forums in 2001, coined by Mop to describe "a search that was human-powered rather than computer-driven". The original human flesh search engine was a subforum on Mop similar to a question-and-answer (Q&A) site, focusing on entertainment-related questions. Gradually, the definition of the term evolved from not just a search by humans, but also a search of humans. [6] [7]

History

An early human flesh search dated back to March 2006, when netizens on Tianya Club collaborated to identify an Internet celebrity named "Poison" (simplified Chinese:毒药; traditional Chinese:毒藥; pinyin:dúyào). The man was found out to be a high-level government official.

However, Fei-Yue Wang et al. state that the earliest HFS search was in 2001, "when a user posted a photo of a young woman on a Chinese online forum..., and claimed she was his girlfriend." She was eventually identified as a minor celebrity and the initial claim was discredited. [1]

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 human flesh search engine has also been deployed for amusement. Johan Lagerkvist, author of After the Internet, Before Democracy: Competing Norms in Chinese Media and Society, said that the Little Fatty meme, in which pictures of a teenager were photoshopped on film posters without the boy's permission, demonstrated that the human flesh search engine "can also be directed against society's subaltern and the powerless" and that "[t]his raises important issues of the legitimate right to privacy, defamation, and slander." [8]

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.

Stance of the People's Republic of China

In December 2008, The People's Court in Beijing called it an alarming phenomenon because of its implications in "cyberviolence" and violations of privacy law. [9]

On the one hand, human flesh search by netizens is a manifestation of freedom of speech. It is also the supervisory right given by Article 41 of the Chinese Constitution. On the other hand, human flesh search leads to the disclosure of ordinary people's names, identities, family addresses and other personal data. The Chinese government has an official stance on it – human flesh search engines violate privacy laws.

Some local governments have made human flesh search engines illegal by stating that posting the private information of another will result in a fine of 5000RMB. [10] But all in all, the Chinese government does little to punish such cases; some might even say the government encourages it by allowing such widespread behavior to go unchecked.

From March 1, 2020, the People’s Republic of China’s "Regulations on the Ecological Governance of Online Information Content" has been implemented, clarifying that users and producers of online information content services and platforms must not engage in online violence, doxing, deep forgery, data fraud, account manipulation and other Illegal activities [11]

In film and television

Notable examples

See also

Related Research Articles

Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China (PRC) affects both publishing and viewing online material. Illegal content may be censored with the likes of pornographic content, content that promotes crime or violence and certain topics deemed to be controversial. Due to this censorship freedom of the press in the country has been reduced as well as foreign government interference to domestic policy or governance and misinformation on social media. These measures also inspired the policy's nickname, the "Great Firewall of China".

Social software, also known as social apps, include communication and interactive tools often based on the Internet. Communication tools typically handle the capturing, storing and presentation of communication, usually written but increasingly including audio and video as well. Interactive tools handle mediated interactions between a pair or group of users. They focus on establishing and maintaining a connection among users, facilitating the mechanics of conversation and talk. Social software generally refers to software that makes collaborative behaviour, the organisation and moulding of communities, self-expression, social interaction and feedback possible for individuals. Another element of the existing definition of social software is that it allows for the structured mediation of opinion between people, in a centralized or self-regulating manner. The most improved area for social software is that Web 2.0 applications can all promote cooperation between people and the creation of online communities more than ever before.

A recommender system, or a recommendation system, is a subclass of information filtering system that seeks to predict the "rating" or "preference" a user would give to an item.

Internet privacy

Internet privacy involves the right or mandate of personal privacy concerning the storing, repurposing, provision to third parties, and displaying of information pertaining to oneself via the Internet. Internet privacy is a subset of data privacy. Privacy concerns have been articulated from the beginnings of large-scale computer sharing.

Online advertising, also known as online marketing, Internet advertising, digital advertising or web advertising, is a form of marketing and advertising which uses the Internet to deliver promotional marketing messages to consumers. Many consumers find online advertising disruptive and have increasingly turned to ad blocking for a variety of reasons.

Dog poop girl refers to a 2005 incident in South Korea which was one of the first internationally reported occurrences of doxing. In a Seoul subway car, a young woman's lap dog defecated inside the train, and the woman was photographed on another passenger's mobile phone camera after she did not clean up the mess despite numerous requests. The photos were posted on a popular Korean website and widely distributed; the woman was later identified, and her personal information was published online. The woman was publicly shamed, and quit her university. Newspaper editorials then addressed the issues concerning Internet vigilantism and privacy concerns.

Cyber-ethnography, also known as virtual ethnography, digital ethnography and most commonly online ethnography, is an online research method that adapts ethnographic methods to the study of the communities and cultures created through computer-mediated social interaction. Online ethnography has by far the wider use. As modifications of the term ethnography, cyber-ethnography, online ethnography and virtual ethnography designate particular variations regarding the conduct of online fieldwork that adapts ethnographic methodology. There is no canonical approach to cyber-ethnography that prescribes how ethnography is adapted to the online setting. Instead individual researchers are left to specify their own adaptations. Netnography is another form of online ethnography or cyber-ethnography with more specific sets of guidelines and rules, and a common multidisciplinary base of literature and scholars. This article is not about a particular neologism, but the general application of ethnographic methods to online fieldwork as practiced by anthropologists, sociologists, and other scholars.

Internet Vigilantism is the act of carrying out vigilante activities through the Internet. The term encompasses vigilantism against alleged scams, crimes, and non-Internet related behavior.

Digital footprint or digital shadow refers to one's unique set of traceable digital activities, actions, contributions and communications manifested on the Internet or digital devices. Digital footprints can be classified as either passive or active. The former is composed of a user's web-browsing activity and information stored as cookies. The latter is often released deliberately by a user to share information on websites or social media. While the term usually applies to a person, a digital footprint can also refer to a business, organization or corporation.

Information technology law concerns the law of information technology, including computing and the internet. It is related to legal informatics, and governs the digital dissemination of both (digitalized) information and software, information security and electronic commerce aspects and it has been described as "paper laws" for a "paperless environment". It raises specific issues of intellectual property in computing and online, contract law, privacy, freedom of expression, and jurisdiction.

Evercookie

Evercookie is a JavaScript application programming interface (API) that identifies and reproduces intentionally deleted cookies on the clients' browser storage. It was created by Samy Kamkar in 2010 to demonstrate the possible infiltration from the websites that use respawning. Websites that have adopted this mechanism can identify users even if they attempt to delete the previously stored cookies.

The murder of Zhang Miao (张妙) by Yao Jiaxin (药家鑫) was an intentional homicide case in China. On October 20, 2010, Yao Jiaxin, a 21-year-old music student from Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, ran down and injured a restaurant waitress, Zhang Miao, while driving, then got out of his car and stabbed her to death when he saw her memorizing his license plate number. Yao was put on trial on March 23, 2011, was sentenced to death on April 22, 2011, and executed on June 7, 2011. This case brought much public attention because of Yao’s family background and whether the death penalty was improper.

Little Fatty

Little Fatty is an internet meme involving superimposing the face of a boy on various photographs. Because of the internet meme and the resulting sudden fame, the boy, Qian Zhijun, decided to become a public figure, and he became a major celebrity and an actor in China. The "Little Fatty" meme is an example of earlier e gao works, which mainly consisted of images edited in Adobe Photoshop.

Doxing, or doxxing, is the act of publicly revealing previously private personal information about an individual or organization, usually through the Internet. Methods employed to acquire such information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites, hacking, and social engineering. Doxing may be carried out for various reasons, including online shaming, extortion, and vigilante aid to law enforcement. It also may be associated with hacktivism.

<i>Caught in the Web</i> 2012 film

Caught in the Web is a 2012 Chinese drama film directed by Chen Kaige. In September 2012 it screened as a special presentation at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was selected as the Chinese entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, but it did not make the final shortlist.

Online uncovering, also called doxing, is the practice of revealing private information about an individual or organization gathered from online sources. Methods include searching public databases, social media and email accounts, and hacking. When done by private individuals it is a form vigilantism. It can also be used by law enforcement departments. For example, it helped the Hong Kong Police Force to investigate the background information of suspects. Driven by the prevalence of the internet and online forums such as the Golden Forum, online uncovering has become a social phenomenon in Hong Kong. It is used to shame, harass, and tarnish of reputation of the victims.

A cyber manhunt in Hong Kong is a term for the behavior of tracking down and exploring one's private information via internet media. A cyber manhunt generally involves netizens and is regarded as the purpose of a cyber judgment to the target through blaming, shaming, and naming culprits.

Online shaming is a form of public shaming in which targets are publicly humiliated on the internet, via social media platforms, or more localized media. As online shaming frequently involves exposing private information on the Internet, the ethics of public humiliation has been a source of debate over internet privacy and media ethics. Online shaming takes many forms, including call-outs, cancellation, doxing, negative reviews, and revenge porn.

Participatory surveillance is community-based monitoring of other individuals. This term can be applied to both digital media studies and ecological field studies. In the realm of media studies, it refers to how users surveil each other using the internet. Either through the use of social media, search engines, and other web-based methods of tracking, an individual has the power to find information both freely or non freely given about the individual being searched. Issues of privacy emerge within this sphere of participatory surveillance, predominantly focused on how much information is available on the web that an individual does not consent to. More so, disease outbreak researchers can study social-media based patterns to decrease the time it takes to detect an outbreak, an emerging field of study called infodemiology. Within the realm of ecological fieldwork, participatory surveillance is used as an overarching term for the method in which indigenous and rural communities are used to gain greater accessibility to causes of disease outbreak. By using these communities, disease outbreak can be spotted earlier than through traditional means or healthcare institutions.

The Dragonfly project was an Internet search engine prototype created by Google that was designed to be compatible with China's state censorship provisions. The public learned of Dragonfly's existence in August 2018, when The Intercept leaked an internal memo written by a Google employee about the project. In December 2018, Dragonfly was reported to have "effectively been shut down" after a clash with members of the privacy team within Google. However, according to employees, work on Dragonfly was still continuing as of March 2019, with some 100 people still allocated to it.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Wang, Fei-Yue; Zeng, Daniel; Hendler, James A.; Zhang, Qingpeng; Feng, Zhuo; Gao, Yanqing; Wang, Hui; Lai, Guanpi (August 2010). "A Study of the Human Flesh Search Engine: Crowd-Powered Expansion of Online Knowledge". Computer. 43 (8): 45–53. doi:10.1109/MC.2010.216. ISSN   0018-9162.
  2. Fletcher, Hannah (June 25, 2008). "Human flesh search engines: Chinese vigilantes that hunt victims on the web". The Times . Archived from the original on March 4, 2009.
  3. Branigan, Tania (March 24, 2010). "How China's internet generation broke the silence". The Guardian.
  4. Cheong, Pauline Hope; Gong, Jie (2010). "Cyber vigilantism, transmedia collective intelligence, and civic participation". Chinese Journal of Communication. 3 (4): 471–487. doi:10.1080/17544750.2010.516580.
  5. Downey, Tom (March 3, 2010). "China's Cyberposse". The New York Times.
  6. Sterling, Bruce (March 7, 2010). "Human-flesh search engines — renrou sousuo yinqing". Wired.
  7. Zhang, Yang; Gao, Hong (April 2016). "Human Flesh Search Engine and Online Privacy". Science and Engineering Ethics. 22 (2): 601–604. doi:10.1007/s11948-015-9672-y. PMID   26115757.
  8. Lagerkvist, p. 60-61.
  9. McDonald, Mark (December 19, 2008). "Chinese court fines Web user in 'cyber-violence' case". The New York Times.
  10. "Xuzhou legislation explicitly prohibits human flesh search. The maximum fine is 5,000 RMB". January 19, 2009.
  11. "《网络信息内容生态治理规定》明确不得开展人肉搜索、流量造假等违法活动". 中国政府网. 新华社. 2019-12-21. Archived from the original on 2020-11-23. Retrieved 2020-02-29.
  12. Clare Pennington (September 14, 2012). "China, Framed by the Cinema and the Web: 'Caught in the Web,' on Web Searches in China". The New York Times. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  13. Hatton, Celia (January 28, 2014). "China's Internet Vigilantes and the 'Human Flesh Search Engine'". BBC.

Further reading