Human Flesh Search Engine
In his book “The World Is Flat,” Thomas Friedman was shocked when he found out his daughter was using Google to perform background searches on her new roommates. Back then, Friedman didn’t know what to call this phenomenon; today “Google stalking” is well ensconced in the modern lexicon. But Chinese netizens have their own name for this common practice. They call it Human Flesh Search Engine (HFSE). The result, as Western readers can surely surmise, is more than a background check.
In recent years, China’s blogosphere has become a hot spot for breaking scandals. Thanks to HFSE, unsavory details of an unpleasant past can easily be made public. The latest episode involves a young political star.
The story is simple. After years of laborious study and a great amount of luck, the 29-year-old Zhou Senfeng became the mayor of a little-known city. He is probably the youngest mayor in China. This makes people suspicious, because Chinese politics is a gerontocracy. People assume Zhou has friends in high places and that some kind of corruption has occurred.
The details the HFSE turns up are open to interpretation. Though Zhou doesn’t come from a powerful political family, his wife does. She also occupies an important seat in the government, apparently without having paid her dues.
This information is not particularly damning. But the HFSE still managed to dig up some dirt on the young mayor. His master thesis and another published article may have been plagiarized. His wife may also be guilty of plagiarism.
While the political future of this poor young mayor is still up in the air, the HFSEers are already claiming a victory for truth, justice, and the muckraking way.
Of course, the whole affair raises questions about an individual’s right to privacy. China doesn’t have a strong tradition of privacy protection. It is common practice here for telecom companies to sell their customers’ personal information to third parties.
While the sometimes venomous practice of Internet investigation and mudslinging is not a uniquely Chinese phenomenon, the demographics of Chinese Internet users means that things can get particularly nasty here. As mentioned in this column before, most of China’s internet users are low-income twenty-somethings with plenty of time to spend and rage to vent. The HFSE is the perfect vehicle to channel all their frustration and bile.
People have begun to feel the heat of this formidable new power and have decided to tame it. Governments in some cities plan to enact laws limiting HFSE. This effort is gaining public support because, after all, everybody’s privacy is on the line. Today’s Internet snooper could be tomorrow’s target.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook
- 10 Shaq Confident He Will Eventually Make Funny Quip on TNT