Thursday, July 9, 2015

Accidental Fame and the Chinese HFSE

It's been over a year since I last updated this HFS blog, and I hate to admit that I've been busy with work and haven't taken much time to read into any news related to HFS in China.

However, a few months back I was interviewed for SoasRadio's Podcast, "Tales from the OtherNets" about HFS in China. It's a wonderful episode, so if you have the time, go and listen to the full podcast here.

Accidental fame online can mean anything from doxing and cyber bullying to becoming a meme or having a video of yourself go viral. In this episode we have a few stories of this from Indonesia and South Korea and finally talk to Vincent Capone -- who runs a blog on Human Flesh Search -- talks about the phenomenon in China.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Online Bullying Leads to Suicide

This story is nearly half a year old already, but I wanted to share it before I lost the page. A high school girl who had visited a shop was later labeled a thief by the shop-owner who posted surveillance photos online of the girl in her store and urged the online public to "hunt for her." However, the article does make it clear whether or not the allegations were true. Soon, web users found her identity and posted her personal information, address, and school details on the Internet. Online abuse followed and the girl committed suicide by jumping into a river.

The story greatly mirrors the trials and hardships faced by many western teens who experience cyber-bullying, a phenomenon that is becoming commonplace. Laws and regulations are slow to catch up the quick pace of technology. In the case of this Chinese girl, the Internet was used as a platform for judgement and targeting someone deemed beneath the norms of society. As with many of these Human Flesh cases where identity is searched and verified through the Internet, the consequences can be extremely dire.

The girl's family has brought a lawsuit against the shop-owner - I will have to dig up some news on this story and see whether or not there was/or will be any success on this front.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cultural Revolution Memory

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed piece titled, Confessions of the Cultural Revolution which ties in greatly with my Master's research on the subject of the social memory of the Cultural Revolution in present-day China.

Within the piece, writer Xiao Han reflects that due to the country's strict censorship of Cultural Revolution material and research and reflection into the subject matter, the period's memory is gradually receding from public memory, creating nostalgia by those who contrast the decade with China's rapid, capitalist rise.

The article mentions one woman who recently came forward and apologized for witnessing an attack on her vice principal during the height of violence, and not doing anything to stop it. After her apology spread through the internet, netizens were quick to target her as "grandstanding" and called her apology "insincere." Xiao Han comments on this and wonders how any other former violent individuals will be encouraged to come forward and apologize for past actions when facing the backlash and criticism of the internet, and calls for the younger netizens to reflect on the apologizes of their elders (see the third excerpt below).

Some excerpts:

Attempts by intellectuals to publicly address the Cultural Revolution have been suppressed; only a smattering of research by state-funded scholars has seen the light of day. The result has been a gradual receding of memory. The economic surge of the past 30 years has even led some deluded souls to look back on the period with nostalgia. But given the authoritarian nature of today’s leadership, many people fear the prospect of a return of the terror that marked the Cultural Revolution.


Can China continue the momentum and create a framework for wider public acknowledgement? Are the Chinese people ready for such a mass reckoning?


We Chinese need to build an appropriate environment for the wrongdoers to come forward. First and foremost, this requires that people who were fortunate enough not to experience the Cultural Revolution put themselves in the place of the perpetrators. While they have a right to criticize perpetrators of past crimes, they should repress the impulse to harshly condemn those who come forward. We should not be making excessive demands on this process. Chinese people should try to consider what they themselves might have done under similar circumstances.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Anonymity on Yelp, a website where users can review businesses, restaurants, and services, is popular among American web users. Typically the website is the go-to place for finding new places to eat, reviewing businesses and home services, and for netizens to vent their frustration on bad dining experiences to the online public.

However, after a recent court case which found that many negative reviews are posted by users who were not real customers of a service, the US judicial system has ruled that users who post negative reviews must be identified. This news runs parallel to initiatives taken by the Chinese government to identify online netizens by requiring real-name registration for use on popular websites, social media networks, and web forums.

Posting fake or falsifying information on Yelp can be immensely damaging to small business owners. Yelp reviewers are quick to point out poor service, poor products, and bad dining experiences. Bad reviews (and poor media attention on a popular TV program) led to the closure of one American bakery. Similarly, other shops have seen negative hits taken on Yelp after their refusal to serve the LGBT community (although the negative reviews were later taken down).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Weibo to the Rescue!

A few weeks ago, Chinese in Shanghai rescued over 600 cats from being skinned through crowd-sourcing techniques using the micro-blogging website Weibo. Animal rescue groups and volunteers were called to intercept the truck after a message was spread through Weibo. The cats were ultimately saved and the police became involved after the truck that was carrying the cats was stopped by the concerned citizens.

I wanted to share this story because it bares some resemblance to the netizens vs. animal rights violations instances of Human Flesh Searches from the past.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Memory of Mao Lives On

Came across a very fascinating piece on the BBC website today about a small town in China that still lives according to Chairman Mao. The town, Nanjiecun, is located in central China and offers its residents commune-style amenities such as free housing and education, and a life away from the commercialism that has overtaken China.

What's amazing about the piece is that the town has been prospering and functions as a mini beacon of hope for the ideals held up by Mao nearly half a century ago.

Definitely worth the read!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing HFS

It's been quite a while since my last update and I apologize for this blog becoming so sparsely updated. I haven't had as much time as I'd like to peruse trends on the Chinese Internet and so a lot of stories have been slipping under my radar.

However, I would like to share this one story that hits very close to home.

A few weeks ago, a 22-year-old girl named Alicia Ann Lynch from Michigan tweeted and shared a photo of herself dressed up as a Boston Marathon bombing victim for Halloween. All judgement and poor-taste aside, what interests me about the story is the backlash she received and the exact similarities it holds against HFS cases in China.

As with HFS searches in China, American netizens used her social networking accounts to gather information about the young girl. Having discovered a photo of her driver's license, netizens were able to discern her address. Within days netizens found nude photos of her and shared all of that around the internet.

Netizens then took to the comments section of an article about the girl's poor decision to share her address and the names of her employer. The girl closed all of her social media accounts in an effort to evade netizens, but that was in vain. She reopened her account briefly to tell that she had lost her job.

As with cases of HFS in China, while most netizens spoke out against Lynch, there were many who also advocated against the wave of cyber-bullying and shaming that shook the story.

What this shows is that while the internet in America is significantly smaller than that of China, human flesh searches, or crowd-sourcing movements as they're more commonly referred to in the US, can be just as dangerous and common.