Internet is one of the aspects that are developing at an incredible speed in China. According to Chen and Ang, there were only 600,000 Internet users in China in 1997; yet 12 years later in 2009, the number of Internet users in China hits 384 million, even greater than the population of United States (Herold&Marolt, 2011). With the development of Internet in China, Internet policies, regulations and laws came up with the rise of Internet crimes. Similar to most other countries, Chinese Internet police have devoted in fighting against Internet crimes such as hacking, distributing resources without copyrights (piracy), as well as harmful materials such as pornography or anti-government propaganda (i.e. Falungong related materials), etc.
Recently, many people in China shifted their concern from Internet crime to another aspect on the Internet – Internet violence. Nevertheless, this Internet violence in China is essentially different from the one we usually see in western society, where some teenagers are bullied by their peers over cyber space. The phenomenon of Internet violence in China is like this – some incidents are reported by unofficial individuals on the Internet, usually with proofs such as photos or videos poster, then the person or group on the wrong side will face over-harsh criticism from people all over the Internet. Moreover, most of these people will be found by something called flesh search engine – their information such as their cellphone number, ID number, address and so on, are searched by all means with people on the Internet and they are posted online, which eventually brings them many inconvenience in their lives. This “Internet violence with Chinese characteristic” has not only caught wide concern from the society in recent years, but it has also brought out the conflicts between people in different social classes in China as well.
First, the Internet violence with Chinese characteristic is very rampant because of the existence of flesh search engine. Herold gives flesh search engine a definition as to “track down offline individuals by employing as many computer users as possible in the search” (Herold&Marolt, 2011). On the biggest flesh-searching website in China – mop.com, hundreds of flesh-searching requests are posted daily. In many cases, in their offline lives, these Internet users spot some incidents that reflect social injustice. They take pictures and post them online, along with a request of a search about the person who is on the wrong side (in most people’s beliefs). However, concerns have been raised that the consequences the person being searched need to carry are mostly too severe. For example, many people who are found out having an affair are fired after being exposed online due to the report done by many anonymous Internet users to the companies. Although it is immoral having an affair, these people exposed online are fired without violating any laws or company policies. Therefore, the “immoral” people (in most people’s beliefs) are suffering violence from the Internet.
There are many reasons that cause the furious flesh search engine, and one of the most significant reasons is the conflict between people in different social classes in China. While being as a practically one-party country, China was ruled by the China Communist Party since 1949. According to Zhao, news organizations in China are supposed to filter “unwanted” and “harmful” information (Zhao, 2008). Because Chinese people have been suffering such censorship for a long time, the discontentedness among them has been accumulating. With the rise of Internet and participatory culture, more and more incidents that reflect social injustice related to powerful groups, such as government officials and the riches, are reported by individuals or alternative media. Many people with power or wealth are uncovered that they tried to cover their dirty facts, such as abusing their power or corruption, by bribing the mainstream media so that they will not be reported. As a result, the animosity for the rich or the people with power among the civilians in China is fairly great. For example, the famous actor Wen Zhang was caught having an affair with another famous actress Yao Di by paparazzi in May, 2014. He and his company tried to pay five million to the newspaper requesting not to report it in order to maintain his image, but the newspaper refused to do so and claimed that the audience has the right to know everything. After the incident was reported, there was a wide criticism towards Wen and his concubine Yao; as a result, Wen was forced to make an apology and Yao was fired by hers crews of TV drama and they both faced a critical career crisis.
The reason of the hostile towards the rich or the power is obvious. First of all, there are many flaws in the current laws, policies and regulations in China that many people, especially the rich and the power, choose to exploit an advantage that may seem immoral or even harming other people’s interests. They can find ways in getting out of punishment from laws even they are caught. Therefore, by uncovering scandals through the Internet and track them down with flesh search engine, the civilians hope to punish the rich and the power by depriving their privacy. Also, civilians hope that by uncovering scandals on the Internet can urge the development and completion of the judicial system in China. For example, in May, 2014, an innocent woman was bludgeoned to death by six people in a MacDonald restaurant in Shandong Province. The incident was uncovered on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, and it aroused a savage discussion online. The backgrounds of the six murderers were posted online in a very short period of time with the help of flesh search engine. As a result, different sectors in the society, such as senior government officials, the local police department and the MacDonald Company in China, express their concerns about the incident; also, the six murderers were caught by the local police the very next day, and the trial was expected to begin much earlier than normal procedure does. Therefore, the flesh search engine, as well as the “Internet violence with Chinese characteristic”, have pushed up the efficiency of governmental agencies, and have alerted the government with issues such as public safety. In a sense, the flesh search engine has urged the progress of the society.
In conclusion, the flesh search engine and the “Internet violence with Chinese characteristic” is a double-edged sword. The bad said of the flesh search engine is that many people uncovered by flesh search engine suffer from social punishment that they do not deserved. For example, people who fail to give seats to the elders in a bus receive countless harassment on their cellphone from strangers after their cellphone numbers are posted online, and people who are caught having an affair are fired because they have “moral issues”. This is why people are paying more attention to this phenomenon because it produces a more severe violence when dealing with a much less major social injustice. However, on the other hand, the flesh search engine and the “Internet violence with Chinese characteristic” is a social-progressing force that should not be ignored. It reveals many scandals and dirty facts of the rich and the power, and alerts the other rich and the power to respect justice and abide by the laws; also, it urges the efficiency of government agencies and it forms a justice and moral atmosphere among the society. Eventually, when the judicial system in China is more developed and people with power and wealth are more self-disciplined, the role of flesh search engine and the “Internet with Chinese characteristic” will disappear, along with the bad effect of it.