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A Man Tried to Destroy the Internet to Keep Photos of Him Dancing Offline

Well, that's one way to do it.

by Jamie Fullerton
Sep 1 2016, 3:44pm

Image: Screencap of NetEase.

Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Justin Bieber, and Leslie Jones have all had private photographs distributed on the internet without their consent in recent times. Any action they took against the leaks after pictures of their passports, driver's licenses, or nudes hit the web was, of course, sadly too late to prevent them from living online forever.

A novel, albeit violent way of preventing such online intrusion has been highlighted by the actions a middle-aged man from China's eastern Shandong province with the surname Liu. He recently feared that incriminating photos of him dancing in an amusing way were about to go online. His solution? Break the internet, literally, before that happened.

Liu was arrested in the city of Weifang on August 19 for breaking into and tearing out the wiry innards of four China Telecom service boxes, according to Chinese news site NetEase. When asked by police why he had been heading around the city mutilating the boxes in the dead of night, after being caught doing so on CCTV, he said that he had been concerned that photos and videos of him dancing in the street may go online and cause him to lose face. Losing face, meaning being embarrassed in front of people, is considered a much more serious social event in Chinese culture than in most of the west.

Image: Screencap of NetEase.

He told the police that in June, when he was new to Weifang, he had felt compelled to join in with a public "granny dance." These synchronized dances, common in cities across the country, are typically busted out by middle-aged women next to residential blocks as a way of keeping fit in the evenings. They are usually soundtracked by either traditional Chinese music or nosebleed techno blasting from a portable amp. Even before Liu's case came to light, they have long been associated with controversy.

As the so-called granny dances tend to take place in heavily populated residential areas and often cause a racket, complaints against them are common. In Chengdu, in the western Sichuan province, there have been reports of water balloons being hurled at dancers. In Wuhan and Changsha, in the south central Hunan province, excrement has been lobbed at them. In 2015 the government responded to the controversies by issuing strict rules about dancing in public spaces.

Nobody lobbed poop at Liu when he made his impromptu dance in Weifang, but he told police that he noticed that sniggering people nearby were capturing his moves on their phones. It wasn't until August, though, that he had a sudden fear about images of him dancing being put online, so he decided to try and break the internet by destroying the communications boxes.

His somewhat drastic measure seemed to work on one level, at least. After Liu embarked on his path of destruction China Telecom staff noticed that their internet service was down near the points he destroyed, leading to police checking CCTV footage from the areas and discover who the culprit was. Liu, who had already spent seven years in jail for previous crimes, caused around 10,000 Yuan ($15,000) of damage.

Reports of the case didn't go viral, but many netizens on Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat were quick to give their thoughts about it. Some were supportive, with one commenter saying: "You can go away if you don't like his dance. Nobody forces you to watch. What makes you think you have the right to mock the guy? The photo taker has no morals." Another, meanwhile, pointed out a flaw in his destructive plan, commenting: "He didn't realize there are 3G and 4G."

Details of any trial or sentencing for Liu have not been made public. Neither, though, have any images of Liu dancing, meaning that so far he's been successful in not being ridiculed online for his moves. Instead, he's being ridiculed for believing that he could break the internet by tearing the wires out of a bunch of telecoms boxes.