Hunting corrupt officials online: the human flesh search engine and the search for justice in China

2017-02-13T15:19:00Z (GMT) by Li Gao James Stanyer
While there is growing research on online politics in China some political uses of the Internet have tended to be overlooked. The focus of this article is on an emerging phenomenon in Chinese cyberspace, the human flesh search engine (HFSE), a term first used by the Chinese media to refer to the practice of online searching for people or 'human hunting'. While existing examinations have focused on breaches of individual privacy by these so-called online 'vigilantes' this study focuses on the ability of HFSE to reveal norm transgressions by public officials and lead to their removal. In order to give readers a comprehensive overview of what an HFSE is, the first section of this article provides basic information about it. In the second part, 20 well-documented HFSE examples are listed to show their varying aims and then HFSEs which focus on local governments and officials are shown to highlight the political dimensions of HFSE. In the third section, four case studies of government/official-focused HFSE are explored in detail to show political HFSEs' internal processes and underlying mechanisms.