Human flesh searches, online crowd-sourced searches for corrupt officials, animal abusers or otherwise as nasty perceived people have developed into an online prosecution system, to correct a failing offline justice, explains internet researcher Tricia Wang in the Atlantic.
“If you want to understand China right now, you should be paying attention to what its flesh searchers are doing,” [Tricia] Wang said…
“Flesh searchers feel like they are sharing information in a system that does not have a comprehensive or consistent rule of law,” explained global tech sociologist, ethnographer and 88 bar blogger Tricia Wang in an exclusive Tea Leaf Nation interview. “In a way, this is like an ad hoc, ground-up rule of law. It’s thrown together, it’s not very systematic, it can fall apart at any second—but what’s amazing is that there is no face-to-face contact and yet trust is able to form.”
Wang specifically cited the infamous and disturbing kitten-killer case.
In 2006, a video of a woman stomping a kitten to death with the sharp point of her high heel appeared on a Mop forum. With no recourse to file a formal complaint, outraged netizens took matters into their own hands and, through a flesh search, found the culprit: Wang Jiao from Heilongjiang province summarily lost her iron rice bowl (铁饭碗), a coveted government job that usually lasts to retirement and pays a lifetime pension.
“Not everyone is doing it as a response to some moral compass to the government, or for even a righteousness reason,” said Wang. “We can instead see this as a more broad manifestation of a collective response to a society that’s undergoing some major debates; the issues that people are flesh searching really reveal the things that China is going through.”
Issues, as revealed with Yang [Dacai] and his watches, often involving government conduct and corruption.