This response to a sent-in letter was published in Red Flag Magazine on 21 May. It discusses, at an extremely superficial level, different privacy-related regimes around the world. It identifies China’s well-known human flesh search engine phenomenon as being particularly unique to China, although privacy issues are a topic of interest and concern around the world as well. I could not find two of the legal documents it cites, the purported U.S. “Provisional Citizen Online Privacy Rights Protection Regulations” and EU “Common Principles for the Protection of Individual Privacy on the Internet”, through a quick Google search, and would appreciate information as to which documents these really are – or whether these perhaps are fictitious. Interestingly, the article refers to the need for a rights-based approach in dealing with privacy issues online, in order to avoid majoritarian dictatorship.
Do Western Countries Permit the “Human Flesh Search Engine?”
Question: Comrade Editor, greetings. Over the past few years, there have been an increasing number of “human flesh search engine” incidents, the problem that the individual right to privacy is infringed is also increasingly prominent. I’d like to ask, do similar incidents occur in Western countries? Do they permit “human flesh search engines”?
Anhui reader, Li Jian
Comrade Li Jian:
Greetings! It is as you said in your letter, because the enormous number of netizens who participate in “human flesh search engines”, they have a huge and inestimable power in searching for and providing information and clues, their “intelligence” also can also definitely not be compared with machine technology and other such measures. The “human flesh search engine” is similar to a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it brings a powerful moral standard for and public opinion supervision over social life through the network; on the other hand, it extremely easily infringes individual privacy rights, and even gives easy rise to the spread of network violence.
The “human flesh search engine” is something that many Chinese netizens are fond of. From to “cat abuse woman” in Tianya to the boastful housing bureau director “Zhou Jiugeng”, and the smiling bureau director “Yang Dacai”, as well as to “Guo Meimei”, showing off her wealth online, as well as the “Huanan Tiger Picture”, “Dead Blogs” and other incidents, the “human flesh search engine” has increasingly displayed the power and killing force of the Internet. Nowadays, marital unfaithfulness, animal abuse, household violence and even publishing articles may run into the “human flesh search engine”, as long as you are “hot” enough.
The English “Times” newspaper evaluated thusly: “The “human flesh search engine” is a uniquely Chinese phenomenon in this digital era”. The American “Los Angeles Times” believes that “China’s “human flesh search engine” outshines Interpol”.
In fact, the “human flesh search engine” was invented in China first. Inside the country, netizens are able to relatively autonomously publish their own opinions through the network, this is the most important factor why the “human flesh search engine” could spread like wildfire in China. Even though “human flesh search engine” incidents also occur abroad, it is not as grave as in China, because abroad, management is extremely strict.
In the United States, where the Internet is omnipresent, “human flesh search engine” incidents aren’t often seen. The United States pays extreme importance to the protection of individual data and privacy, and has respectively published the “Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act”, the “Provisional Citizen Online Privacy Rights Protection Regulations”, the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act” and other laws and regulations, to punish online infringement incidents. According to reports, on 18 August 2009, a women in the U.S. state of Missouri, Elizabeth Thrasher, used “human flesh search engine” methods to retaliate against a love rival, and posted individual private material of her 17-year old rival online, suggesting that she was looking for a one-night stand, this woman was accused of the crime of “cyber bullying” by the prosecutor, and was sued for a felony.
In Japan, if private information of criminals or other victims appears online, the network management company can carry out some management, where the words used are overly sharp, it can be deleted.
The “human flesh search engine” has also been lively in South Korea for a while, the Seoul Underground “Dog Dropping Lady” incident and the “Actress Choi Jin-Sil Suicide Due to Rumours” incident both promoted the establishment of an online real-name system in South Korea, which progressively calmed down the “human flesh search engine”. In South Korea, revealing other persons’ address and similar information online is an unlawful act. Even though the target of the “human flesh search engine” harmed the interests of other people, and even where they are “targets of public criticism”, legal channels should be sought to resolve matters, and it is not permitted for netizens to resolve them on their own.
The European Union stresses the protection of individual materials through legislation, and promulgated the “European Union Individual Data Protection Directive”, the “Common Principles for the Protection of Individual Privacy on the Internet” and other corresponding laws and regulations, which established a unified legal and regulatory structure for online privacy protection in the member states.
Since a number of years, many people have wrongly believed that the network could protect individual information that they therefore could speak out freely. But, following the development of all sorts of sorts of social interaction websites, the popularization of smartphones with photographing capabilities, as well as the development of all sorts of free photo-uploading websites, privacy has become the weakest link of the network. But even if obtaining individual information is so easy, proper freedom of speech and social evaluation should still be established on the basis of respecting individual rights. Societies sacrificing individual rights to obtain “justice” are disordered and fearful, they are no different from drinking poison to quench thirst. There are netizens who say that this term “human flesh search engine” lets people’s backs feel chilly, the level of terror of its literal meaning and the killing power they have in reality are cut from the same cloth. In the era of the information explosion, today, the “human flesh search engine” goes after someone else, tomorrow, it’s you, if this sort of “tyranny of the majority” becomes fashionable in the entire country, all of us may meet with such “treatment”.
您好！正如您信中所说， “人肉搜索”由于海量网友的参与，在搜寻和提供信息、线索方面，具有难以估量的巨大威力，它的“智能性”也远非机器技术等手段可以比拟。 “人肉搜索”就如同一把双刃剑。一方面通过网络对社会生活进行有力的道德规范、舆论监督；另一方面极易侵犯个人的隐私权，甚至还容易引起网络暴力的蔓延。