Virtual Carnivores

From The Economist:

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.

In the absence of a free press in China, the internet, despite attempts at censorship, can sometimes put the brakes on official abuses of power. But it can also go too far. As the state-run news agency, Xinhua, put it, “You may find yourself up before a kangaroo court of angry netizens and receive a virtual lynching.” “Human-flesh searching” is known less dramatically in English as “crowdsourcing”—using inputs from a large number of people (usually internet users) to solve problems. But often in China the practice involves mobilising people online to hunt down ordinary citizens whose only alleged sin is that of being objectionable.