Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Report on progress of first lawsuit against "human flesh search engines"

The EastWestNorthSouth blog has an English-language report (with a link to the Chinese-language report) on the first lawsuit against web sites for publishing personal information about the plaintiff in the "human flesh search engine" (HFSE) context. HFSE refers to a phenomenon in China something like an electronic lynching: a victim is identified for various reasons, and then people find out personal information about him or her and post it on line, leading to real-world harassment that can be quite serious (death threats, vandalism to property, getting fired, etc.). In this case, the husband of a woman who committed suicide was the victim; he was thought by the e-mob (correctly or not, I don't know) to have driven her to suicide by his infidelity.

It's kind of depressing that the Chinese term for this should be "human flesh search engine". Those who enthusiastically participate seem unaware of a certain irony: 90 years ago Lu Xun published "Diary of a Madman", which condemned Chinese society for its (metaphorically) cannibalistic tendencies.

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There is clearly a lot of attention on the "human flesh search engines" after this case. Today's edition of People's Court Daily has has three commentaries on the issue discussing morality, privacy and populism.

Posted by: Otto Malmgren | Aug 12, 2008 4:09:25 AM

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