Posted by: Shaun | April 17, 2008

eVigilantes turn on Chinese student

The New York Times published a disturbing article about the online backlash faced by a Chinese student at Duke University who tried to mediate between pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators. The student, Grace Wang, reportedly tired without success to start talks between rival protest groups on the day the Olympic Torch passed through San Francisco. Afterwards, things turned ugly:

The next day, a photo appeared on an Internet forum for Chinese students with a photo of Ms. Wang and the words “traitor to your country” emblazoned in Chinese across her forehead. Ms. Wang’s Chinese name, identification number and contact information were posted, along with directions to her parents’ apartment in Qingdao, a Chinese port city.

Salted with ugly rumors and manipulated photographs, the story of the young woman who was said to have taken sides with Tibet spread through China’s most popular Web sites, at each stop generating hundreds or thousands of raging, derogatory posts, some even suggesting that Ms. Wang — a slight, rosy 20-year-old — be burned in oil. Someone posted a photo of what was purported to be a bucket of feces emptied on the doorstep of her parents, who had gone into hiding.

This sort of “Internet vigilantism” is a piece of China’s emergent online culture and has made headlines before; most famously when, in 2006, outraged Chinese citizens reacted to an anonymous blog by a British expatriate recounting the latter’s sexual conquest of Chinese women. While the anonymity afforded by the net has long fostered nasty comments on forums and in chat rooms, the vitriol of the attacks in this and other cases from China along with the posting of specific information about the target make the phenomenon particularly troubling. High technology, nationalism, and the cloak of a random username make for a dangerous cocktail, it would seem.

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Responses

  1. Hello my friends 🙂
    😉


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