Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Will Strip You Off Your Privacy!

The term human flesh search reminds me of gore horror films in which skin is either eaten or removed in a torturing way while the victim is still alive. That is exactly how victims of human flesh searches are treated whether they are justifiably guilty or not. These people are stripped off their skin-in this case, their personal information and privacy-for apparent justified revenge. The revenge ranging from cheating husbands and suicide to unmasking political corruption. Human flesh search can lead to modifying public behavior, but, nonetheless, it has extremely distressing consequences for the victims, guilty or not.

Downey discusses several cases that were avenged by human flesh search. The most notably one was of Wang Jiao, the cat killer. The human flesh search served to raise awareness of animal issues and rights in China. A country that lacks animal protection laws. However, it had a double-edge sword, forcing Ms. Wang to move out her town due to harassment. On the extreme, it ruined the lives of Wang Fei and his mistress, Dong Fang, by harassing them to the point where they lost their jobs and could have made them unemployable for a long time. Further, it caused distressed to bystanders such as Mr. Wang's family. The frustration of people over Jiang Yang is understandable and her story served as an example to other couples and women being cheated on, but the human flesh searchers (or strippers) took it personal, and unleashed a serious revenge on the husband. The drive behind all this drama lies at the thirst for vengeance of those who want justice and personalize it to the point of doing evil, just as Feng states at the end of the article.

On the other hand, human flesh searching a rapist or other criminals serve to help catch them and make them pay for their crimes. Nonetheless, sacrificing the private life of other rightful citizens over what is the duty of the state is not justifiable. It can even be said that tampering with the privacy of citizens in such an extreme way is a civil rights issue. It can leave people unemployable, physically displaced, emotionally disturbed, and unable to function for fear of retribution, such as the examples of the Ms Wang, the cat killer, Mr. Wang , and Deibao. Thus, it can take away the liberty of being a member of society with all its rewards.

According to Downey, human flesh search is like Facebook or Twitter for us. It gathers large numbers of people to share information. However, it is remarkably different in that it is much more anonymous than social networking. Thus, enabling people to abuse others without specific ramifications. With that said, regulation can be extremely difficult at the international level because of the political connotations it has when a nations asks another sovereign nation to censor its citizens. Moreover, the technicalities of censoring the web are endangered by the ever growing number of internet aficionados that quickly find ways to get around blocked content. Legal sanctions to those who abuse the privacy of other citizens can be instated but that tampers with their freedom of speech and it may not be effective given the expertise of many users of remaining anonymous online. Therefore, we find ourselves in a crossroads when devising of plan for protecting the privacy of citizens.

Nonetheless, Downey informs us that the wave of bashing is moving from private to public lives. For example, searches are focusing more on political things such as corruption or unpatriotic citizenry than on private lives. This can potentially serve for political and social reformation in certain issues. For instance, officials may reconsider their behavior in public and may deter them from corrupted dealings. Yet, there is a fine line in remaining objective with the target and plainly doing malicious things to them. Users may become more and more vicious as they take it more personal, and begin doing evil things to others just like Feng fell deeper into taking revenge on Diebao's "bashers."

Remaining objective when human flesh searching is key for the successful use of it as a social and political tool. This begins at the user level rather than at the legal stance. While laws serve the common good of people, in the online world they run the danger of becoming tools of political and governmental repression (unless it is used for the protection of sexually exploited children, against terrorism, and other detrimental activities). Users can begin by stating rules that limit the type of information and bashing they do for the human flesh searches. These are open to dissent and may invite violations but, at least, it is a start. Another idea is giving victims the ability to have all of their information gathered through the human flesh searches removed by law. The issue that arises from this is what is allowed to be removed (and its exploitation by the government) and it also may not be compensatory for the vast damages that it can cause. Lastly, it is an issue of having conscience and self control when bashing others. We should limit ourselves to go as far as we feel comfortable if it were happening to us and using it for public purposes, not infringe in private lives.

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