Monday, May 7, 2012

HFS Review of Literature

Recent scholarly work out of China and Taiwan has emerged pertaining to human flesh searching and research revolving around it. Thankfully, the subscriptions through my university's library allow me to access and read these articles, thus allowing me to keep up to date with some of the findings and journal articles.

One such article, "Reconceptualizing the Mechanism of Internet Human Flesh Search: A Review of the Literature" by Chian-Hsueng Chao, categorizes the published literature pertaining to HFS into various categories based on the extent and nature of the research conducted. For example, the HFS has been examined using very different lens throughout scholarly work, such as legal issues, privacy concerns, social issues, etc.

What is great is the inter-connectivity of research that is being written concerning privacy and the internet shadowing over HFS and its cases. For example, this article points out that the IT industry has a great deal of work to protect one's identity on networks as well as bringing justice against people who misuse network services to commit acts of privacy invasion, as seen through HFS.

Overall this article did a great job at summing up some of the major research themes pertaining to HFS. While all of the themes are unique, they are all inter-connected and delve into the heart of HFS. However, I was disappointed to find a lack of publication concerned with trying to place a historical context around the HFS. Instead, it appears that most of the literature focuses on the psychological aspects of crowd-sourcing and the legal implications of network servicing and privacy of information sharing. In this article Chao summarizes the bulk of psychological research into HFS into four main categories: deindividuation, bandwagon effect, opinion leaders, and collective behavior.

Regardless, the article did have some strong elements and rather than try to re-summarize some of the strong points of this article, I've pasted excerpts below.

A fantastic excerpt relating to the broad definition of HFS:
HSF and HSF engines are two sides of one coin. The human flesh search engine is an information search tool, such as Mop community and Yahoo! Answer. Whereas the term "human flesh" does not literally mean human flesh, but refers to human resources the search mechanism is based on. The HFS in broad definition refers to the collecting and dissimilating of information. HFS is a collaborative online behavior conducted by Internet users through responding to an open inquiry. Users’ participation and collaboration play a vital role in such a searching process. (651)

Great summary of the timeline of a human flesh search:
The typical process of HFS may be described below:First, someone publishes an open question or part of a question with some information or clue, such as pictures or videos on the online forums, social network, or Blog. The questions may be of interest or controversy depending on the readers. The netizens then respond while browsing the contents and clues attached. Some volunteers may transmit it to other social network sites (e.g. and issue anopen call to dig out the truth, which in turn pulls more respondents. In HFS, many participants joint the discussion of the topic, and quite often during the HFS process, the unwanted publicity of personal information sometimes lead to public harass both online and in real life to the targeted HFS object. (652)

What this passage evoke in myself was the question of what stories get picked up by an HFS? I'm sure there are other content posted to the Chinese internet with hopes of sparking interest and HFS-like mentality that never take off. It would be interesting to research more deeply what elements of the stories that receive the most attention are the factors which attract netizens to respond.

Personal information in the west vs. the east:
In Western countries, personal information and privacy are considered more important than freedom of expression. In Taiwan, the information of the HFS targets are considered publicly available. With the newly amended of Personal Data Protection Act, people who disclose other persons’ personal information in the Internet are illegal. If the netizens releases wrong material during the HFS process, the victim parties can bring civil claims against netizens. (652)

A very important aspect to HFS, as the legal implications surrounding the sharing of private information is still very much a gray-area on the mainland. Can it be argued that the reason that HFS isn't as prevalent in western countries is due to their long-embedded notions of privacy of personal information? Or is it because of the large web population present in Asian nations?

Chao, Chian-Hsueng, Reconceptualizing the Mechanism of Internet Human Flesh Search: A Review of the Literature, (IEEE Computer Society, 2011): 650-655

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