Since late March, when Google moved its search operations out of mainland China to Hong Kong, each response to a Chinese citizen’s search request has been met at the border by government computers, programmed to censor any forbidden information Google might turn up. “Carrot” — in Mandarin, huluobo — may seem innocuous enough. But it contains the same Chinese character as the surname of President Hu Jintao. And the computers, long programmed to intercept Chinese-language searches on the nation’s leaders, substitute an error message for the search result before it can sneak onto a mainland computer.
This is China’s censorship machine, part George Orwell, part Rube Goldberg: an information sieve of staggering breadth and fineness, yet full of holes; run by banks of advanced computers, but also by thousands of Communist Party drudges; highly sophisticated in some ways, remarkably crude in others.
The one constant is its growing importance. Censorship used to be the sleepy province of the Communist Party’s central propaganda department, whose main task was to tell editors what and what not to print or broadcast. In the new networked China, censorship is a major growth industry, overseen — and fought over — by no fewer than 14 government ministries.
China often views the ideas of foreigners, from missionaries in the 17th century to 21st-century Internet entrepreneurs, as subversive imports. The tumultuous history behind the class with Google.
Human Flesh Search Engines is a Chinese network based search facility which combines human and computer resources to accomplish a search task. It is human powered rather than computer driven. Human Flesh searches highlight what people are willing to fight for: the polarizing events and contested moral standards that are the fault lines of contemporary China. They have become a phenomenon in China: they are a form of online vigilante justice in which Internet users hunt down and punish people who have attracted their wrath.
The goal is to get the targets of a search fired from their jobs, shamed in front of their neighbors, or run out of town. It’s crowd-sourced detective work, pursued online — with offline results. “In the United States, traditional media are still playing the key role in setting the agenda for the public,” says Jin Liwen. “But in China, you will see that a lot of hot topics, hot news or events actually originate from online discussions.” In one well known case, when a video appeared in China of a woman stomping a cat to death with the sharp point of her high heel, the human flesh search engine tracked the kitten killer’s home to the town of Luobei in Heilongjiang Province, in the far northeast, and her name — Wang Jiao — was made public, as were her phone number and her employer. “Wang Jiao was affected a lot,” says one Luobei resident. “She left town and went somewhere else”. The kitten-killer case didn’t just provide revenge; it helped turn the human-flesh search engine into a national phenomenon. Searches have also been directed against cheating spouses, corrupt government officials, amateur pornography makers, Chinese citizens who are perceived as unpatriotic, journalists who urge a moderate stance on Tibet and rich people who try to game the Chinese system.
According to writer, Gordon G. Chang of World Affairs Journal, on October 1st of last year, China’s Communist Party celebrated the country’s National Day, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. As they did ten years before, senior leaders put on a military parade of immense proportions in their majestic capital of Beijing. Like the Olympic Games in 2008, the parade was a perfectly executed and magnificently staged spectacle, but instead of international fellowship, the theme was the power of China’s ruling organization and the rise of the Chinese nation.