Human flesh search engine (Chinese: ?; pinyin: ) is a Chinese term for the phenomenon of distributed researching using Internet media such as blogs and forums. It is similar to the concept of "doxing", a practice often associated with the social activist group Anonymous. 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. 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 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 paper A Study of the Human Flesh Search Engine: Crowd-Powered Expansion of Online Knowledge.
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 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.
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.
An early human flesh search dated back to March 2006, when netizens on Tianya Club collaborated to identify an Internet celebrity named "Poison" (S?, T?, P: 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.
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."
This section does not cite any sources. (March 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Manage research, learning and skills at defaultLogic. Create an account using LinkedIn or facebook to manage and organize your Digital Marketing and Technology knowledge. defaultLogic works like a shopping cart for information -- helping you to save, discuss and share.