Taking justice into their own hands: Predictors of netilantism among cyber citizens in hong kong

Lennon Chang, Jinxin Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This research examined the characteristics and predicting indicators of netizens which contribute to “Human Flesh Searching” and internet vigilantism. Human Flesh searching (HFS) is a form of collective online behavior where netizens contribute information to social media and/or networking platforms about a certain event or a target individual or group to achieve what they regard as justice. It has been used to identify and investigate crime. Some netizens go further and take justice into their own hands by punishing alleged criminals and deviants through online shaming. Using the results of a survey conducted in Hong Kong, the research found both gender and time spent online are not significant variables to predict netizens’ intention to contribute to HFS. A positive attitude toward HFS was the strongest predictor of HFS intention. Vigilantism was also a strong predictor of HFS intention. Vigilantism not only affects HFS intention directly, but also indirectly through a positive attitude on HFS. Fairness might negatively influence people’s HFS intention and attitude toward HFS; however, this influence was found to be weak in the present study. Social Justice might not affect HFS intention directly, yet it might exert its effect via a positive attitude toward HFS. That is, netizens who intend to contribute to HFS are those who have less confidence in the criminal justice system and believe highly that people should take justice into their own hands.
Original languageEnglish
Article number556903
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020


  • internet vigilantism (netilantism)
  • confidence in criminal justice system
  • cyber crowdsourcing
  • social justice
  • human flesh searching

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