Friday, March 19, 2010

Chinese web phenomena

Came across the below clever picture here which while being clearly a fake, certainly captures the intrusive nature of the Chinese government in the netscape of the world's largest nation.

The world of Chinese netizens is a strange one, with a number of odd phenomena that have developed which have no real parallel in any other country. I'm certainly no expert on this, and these are the few that I know about; feel free to enlighten me further if you have other examples.

"50 Cent Army" (wumao dang) - it is estimated that the Chinese government has around 300,000 freelancers working to manipulate public opinion on blogs, forums and other websites. The name "50 cent army" or "50 cent party" comes from the amount they are allegedly paid for each comment they make on such sites. Their comments are designed to support the government's position on various issues, while trying to appear that it is merely their own opinion. They operate on English-language websites as well.

"Human Flesh Search Engine" - a phenomenon that emerged a few years ago, it is a kind of internet-based community moral policing that can sometimes stray into vigilantism. One of the notable early examples, from 2006, centred around a woman who videotaped herself stomping a kitten to death with her high heels. This brutal act so enraged netizens that a spontaneous campaign began to seek out the culprit. With hundreds of amateur detectives on the case, they soon tracked her down, using clues such as the buildings in the background. The woman was attacked and shamed online until she lost her job and was forced to apologise.
The human flesh search engine has also been used to attack Chinese people who express pro-Tibet sentiments, have extramarital affairs, or otherwise do things that contravene the moral standards of the Chinese internet community.

Two phenomena that I have previously blogged about include the quite hilarious "grass-mud-horse" meme (basically a cheeky way of sticking up two fingers at censorship laws), and the hacking of overseas websites that express ideas contrary to the Chinese government line.


  1. That's interesting. That "human flesh search engine" actually sounds a little like /b/ or anonymous, another hive mind which is well-known for its angry reactions of animal cruelty and does pretty much the same thing here in the west.

  2. If that woman really did stomp a kitten to death in her high heels she deserved everything she got!
    On a lighter note, just wondering also whether 50 cent has sued China yet for misappropriating his name?