ISSN: 1550-7521

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Research Article Open Access

Hunt by the Crowd: An Exploratory Qualitative Analysis on Cyber Surveillance in China

Abstract

This exploratory analysis applied the notion of Participatory Panopticon to examine a particular form of online collaboration in China—unrelated Internet users collaboratively conduct cyber surveillance towards fellow citizens. The study chose the most visited surveillance forum --Human Flesh Search as a primary site. By analyzing the structure and content of the forum, the study examines whether peer-to-peer cyber surveillance serves as a power equalizer and has greater democratic potential. The results suggest that such collective cyber surveillance creates power imbalance between the searchers and the sought, which counters with some scholars’ claim that surveillance conducted by regular citizens equalizes power distribution in the digital age.

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