'Human Flesh Search Engines' Terrorize Outspoken Chinese

She looks like any other disgruntled young person. Arms tightly crossed, mouth twisted in contempt, she could be letting off steam about parents, school or boyfriends.

But when 21-year-old Gao Qianhui sat down in front her Webcam last month, she had far more important issues on her mind.

Upset that the three-day mourning period for the 80,000 victims of the earthquake in southwest China had disrupted her television viewing schedule, she launched into a five-minute spew of vitriol and then posted the video online.

"I turn on the TV and see injured people, corpses, rotten bodies ... I don't want to watch these things. I have no choice." Ms Gao sighed: "Come on, how many of you died? Just a few, right? There are so many people in China anyway."

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Within hours, Gao had become the latest victim of a human flesh search engine, where Chinese netizens become cyber-vigilantes and online communities turn into the world's largest lynch mobs.

Using the vast human power behind the Chinese Web, every detail of Ms Gao's life, from her home and work address in Liaoning province in northeastern China to the fact that her parents were divorced was dug up and published on hundreds of forums and chatrooms.

"Now humiliate her," ordered one internet user, Yang Zhiyan.

• Click here to read the rest of this story at the Times of London.