China’s online vigilantes: Virtual carnivores – Struggling to protect privacy behind the great firewall

Untold legions police the internet in China to block information deemed politically threatening. But the world’s biggest online population still has a wild streak. Worries are growing about internet vigilantes who mount “renrou sousuo”, or “human-flesh searches”, to ferret out perceived wrongdoers.Zhou Zhenglong, a peasant in the north-western province of Shaanxi, began a 30-month jail term on September 27th after internet-users exposed his faking of photographs of a rare Chinese tiger in the wild. Senior Shaanxi officials, eager to attract tourists to the area, had backed the pictures’ authenticity for several months. They were eventually fired amid an internet outcry. Some posters on Chinese bulletin boards and blogs have argued that Mr Zhou was perhaps merely a hapless tool in a hoax perpetrated mainly by bureaucrats.

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