Google Blogoscoped

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Human Flesh Search"

Xujun Eberlein at earlier this year writes about “human flesh searching” – rénròu sōusuò, 人肉搜索* –, a kind of research mob of the digital world (this is a smaller excerpt, the article contains more details and examples):

The first time I noticed the term “ren rou sou sou” on a Chinese website, I was taken aback. “Human flesh hunting” is a literal translation, but the term, applied to the Internet, means a search engine that runs on people power – “human flesh searching engine.”

Chinese netizens have made up their own cyber vocabulary. (...) A popular new expression, for example, is “very pornographic, very violent,” used to describe something that is cool and interesting. Similarly, using the words, “human flesh” (instead of, for example, “human powered”) to modify “search engine” also reflects a fashion in diction. (...)

In December 2007, a 31-year-old Beijing woman named Jiang Yan jumped off the 24th floor balcony of her apartment. A post on her blog before her suicide blamed her death on her husband’s extra-marital affair. News of this “death blog” spread on the Chinese Internet and soon, a mass of outraged netizens launched a “human flesh search engine” to track down the guilty parties. Within days, every detail of her husband’s personal life was all over the Internet. For months, this man, his alleged mistress and their parents were bombarded with attack messages and even death threats.

[Via Shanghaiist.]

*One of the top Google results for this term is an April Fool’s page by Google about “human search”, which is another possible translation of the term (as suggested by the Google translator).


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