Paper: Scambaiters, Human Flesh Search Engine, Perverted justice, and Internet Haganah: Villains, Avengers, or Saviors on the Internet?

Title: ‘Scambaiters, Human Flesh Search Engine, Perverted justice, and Internet Haganah: Villains, Avengers, or Saviors on the Internet?’
Author(s): Andreas Zingerle
Email: andreas.zingerle (at)

Published at: ISEA 2015, Vancouver, Canada.

Abstract: In recent years, Internet users have been increasingly participating in so called digilantes or cyber-vigilante communities, becoming self-appointed avengers of justice who wade through the Internet to hunt down unlawful netizens. These groups see the legal mechanisms for criminal punishment as ineffective and use social networks to crowd-source both the prosecution and the execution of punishment. I conducted an experimental investigation into these justice-seeking activist groups to compare the ‘scambaiting’ anti-fraud movement and their methods and similar web-formations like ‘Perverted justice’, ‘Human Flesh Search Engine’ and ‘Internet Haganah’. Each group’s motives are presented with recent examples, and parallels are drawn to similar projects carried out by journalists, artists or activists. Mass mediated prosecutions entertain popular culture and are used to regulate social norms. It was found that vigilante communities use congruent techniques in gathering intelligence and use comparable prosecution methods like shaming, humiliation, cyber bullying, or doxing. Furthermore, moral concerns of these deviant actions and possibilities of governmentality are discussed.

Keywords: Vigilante online communities, digilantism, hacktivism.


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