In China, These Detectives Aren't for Hire

Millions of vigilantes rile Beijing by solving mysteries online
By Laurel Jorgensen,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2008 6:28 PM CST
Chinese youths use computers at an Internet cafe in Beijing in this June 18, 2005 file photo.   (AP Photo/Greg Baker, File)
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(Newser) – If you do a bad thing in China, just hope it doesn't go online. The nation's so-called "human flesh engine"—millions of web-surfers who like hunting for facts—have already gotten a Communist Party secretary fired and identified a woman who stomped a cat to death. Despite an army of cybercops and pricey filtering software, the Communists have been unable to corral these online detectives, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Sometimes their work benefits Beijing, like when they connected survivors to relatives after the Sichuan earthquake. But their mob mentality scares some. Last year, the detectives publicly revealed details of a man's personal life after his wife committed suicide, inspiring picket lines and death threats against him. He wants to sue, but “we don’t know who they are,” his lawyer said.