Shadow Net Series 26: The Kitten Killer of Hangzhou

A disgusting act of animal cruelty lands one woman in the jaws of one of China’s “Human Flesh” hunts.

“Find her and kick her to death like she did to the kitten”

a user on MOP, a Chinese online forum.

It’s 2006 and this user’s sentiment echos the rage and disgust displayed around the world as a viral video, like a wild brush fire, takes the internet by storm.

The video is of a woman dressed in an all black cocktail dress and heels. She is holding a kitten when she places it on the ground. She places her foot on the kitten and begins to slowly crush the cat. Eventually leading to an incredibly graphic and senseless killing of the animal.

Immediately Chinese bloggers went to work trying to identify the woman. Thus enacting what would be known as the, “Human Flesh Search Engine”. A concerted effort by Chinese bloggers and internet detectives to identify people in photos or videos. Later this tactic would be popularized by internet hacktivist group, Anonymous. Where it would be referred to as, Doxxing.

Eventually using a logo found in the video the woman they initially thought was from Hangzhou (because of where the server was that uploaded the video) turned out to actually be a nurse named Wang Jue from the Heilongjiang province.

After exposing her identity, she and the cameraman (a provincial TV employee) both lost their jobs. Wang issued an apology soon after on the Luobei City official government website. She stated she was going through a divorce and was lost in life. In China there are no animal welfare laws so it is highly unlikely she or the cameraman faced any sort of criminal consequence to their actions. I’m sure many animal loving readers would feel that public shaming and losing her job alone was not nearly enough punishment.

But most would probably also agree it’s better than nothing and arguably swifter justice than more traditional routes. Especially in a country with no animal cruelty laws.

Due to the nature of the video I’m not going to post it – where to see it or anymore screen caps. It’s extremely disturbing.

What we will do is briefly look into the internet’s judge, jury and executioner form of justice: Doxxing.

According to this article written by Megan Garber Doxxing is slang for “docs” as in documents. In the early cases of doxxing – a form of retaliation from online arguments could result in someone publishing documents or “Dropping Dox”: exposing a rivals real identity to the internet. An act that can have severe consequences to anyone whose true identity is revealed.

The politics, ethics and public opinion of Doxxing have never been a simple case of right or wrong. Most would argue the kitten killer deserved to be doxxed and held personally accountable for her actions.

But in March 2014 when reporter Leah McGrath Goodman identified Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto as Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive and mysterious creative genius behind Bitcoin, it caused quite a stir.

Goodman’s tactics have since been under fire from the controversial exposé. Some journalists criticized her methods for exposing Nakamoto’s family, address and identity to the police and public. While other writers defended her and journalism as a whole, arguing journalism is about bringing secrets to light. The lines between online ethics and journalism not only are often blurred but often bleed into one another.

Online detractors on the popular Internet forum Reddit criticized the journalist stating:

“Can anyone here locate the address of one Leah McGrath Goodman – perhaps we should post her address, license plate and picture of her home, so people can come and comment on the article?” “if you can please post it here; She probably can’t wait for people to knock on her door.. I mean obviously – she doesn’t care about privacy.”

Each passing year our lives become more wired. With costs of living through the roof already people can afford less than ever. So we turn inwards into our own social media spaces. Our projected ego encapsulated by our digital Avatars. Our favorite pictures of ourselves with perfect lighting, our good side and air brushed filters.

Our opinions always righteous. Our conviction always earnest and true. Nobody is the villain in their fantasies. But when millions of fantasies are lined up directly alongside one another, someone will always end up on the losing end. Only then the true cost of internet war can violently shatter the “fifth wall”. The wall of privacy that acts as our bulletproof vests while we traverse the barbed and booby trapped no man’s land that the internet can be.

The reality no longer suspended. Using truth as a weapon to destroy someone’s mental space online. It’s a chilling paradox to contemplate – one of the worst things that can happen online is your identify and personal life being exposed to everyone – on the same social media platforms we already have submitted our identities, and in some cases souls to in the first place.

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