Internet Vigilantism


Internet vigilantism refers to the act of seeking or carrying out justice online, often through social media platforms, forums, or public websites, by individuals or groups without any legal authority. These self-appointed enforcers or guardians aim to identify, expose, or punish perceived wrongdoers by sharing their personal information or condemning their actions. While some cases might result in positive outcomes, internet vigilantism can also lead to harassment, invasion of privacy, and the potential for falsely accusing innocent individuals.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Internet Vigilantism” is:ˈɪn.tɚ.net vɪˈdʒɪl.ənˌtɪz.əm

Key Takeaways

  1. Internet vigilantism, also known as digital vigilantism or online vigilantism, is when individuals or groups take justice into their own hands and use the internet to expose or punish perceived wrongdoers.
  2. While it may seem like a form of activism, internet vigilantism can often backfire and harm innocent people. Incorrect information, doxxing, and cyberbullying are some of the negative consequences associated with this phenomenon.
  3. Preventing and addressing internet vigilantism requires education, policies, and support systems for victims of online harassment. It’s essential for online communities to promote ethical practices and discourage harmful behavior in order to create a safe and inclusive digital environment.


Internet Vigilantism is an important technology term because it encompasses the actions of individuals or groups who take justice into their own hands by using the internet to expose, punish, or publicly shame individuals believed to have committed wrongdoing.

The phenomenon reflects the shift of societal interactions and behaviors onto digital platforms, highlighting the immense power and influence the internet holds in shaping public opinion and enforcing social norms.

However, the importance of this term is also tied to its potential consequences: internet vigilantism can lead to dangerous witch hunts, cyberbullying, invasion of privacy, and even distressing offline results like psychological harm or retaliatory violence.

Therefore, understanding Internet Vigilantism is essential for fostering responsible online behavior, protecting individual rights and promoting ethical use of digital platforms.


Internet vigilantism, at its core, is a manifestation of society’s quest for justice and the desire to maintain an ethical standard in the digital realm. It aims to identify and expose individuals who commit offenses online, such as hate speech, cyberbullying, harassment, or other illegal activities.

It is often fueled by a collective sense of responsibility among netizens to uphold the law and morality. The driving force behind this phenomenon is the belief that traditional institutions, such as law enforcement or the court systems, are not adequately addressing these issues, thus compelling ordinary citizens to take action in their own hands.

While internet vigilantism may serve as a deterrent to potential wrongdoers, it is not without controversy. Lacking the formal oversight of law enforcement agencies, digital vigilantes can often act on incomplete or incorrect information, leading to grave consequences such as targeting and accusing innocent individuals.

Additionally, the anonymity that the internet provides can embolden these vigilantes, leading to disproportionate or harmful reprisals against the alleged perpetrators. As such, it is essential that online communities and authorities navigate the complex balance between grassroots responsibility and the risk of uncontrolled vigilantism to maintain a more secure and just internet ecosystem.

Examples of Internet Vigilantism

Boston Marathon Bombing (2013): In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, users on the Reddit platform took it upon themselves to identify and track down the potential suspects. These internet vigilantes misidentified innocent individuals, accusing them of being the terrorists behind the attack. This led to harassment and negative consequences for those mistakenly identified.

Catching child predators (To Catch a Predator): Internet vigilantes, inspired by Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series, have taken it upon themselves to identify and expose potential child predators online. They pose as underage teenagers in online chat rooms, engage with suspected predators, and then publicly reveal their identities. Although they may have good intentions, such actions can lead to false accusations and have legal consequences.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: There have been cases in which internet vigilantes have taken up the cause of victims of cyberbullying or online harassment. In some instances, these vigilantes identify and expose the harassers publicly, forcing them to face the consequences of their actions. While these acts may lead to justice for the victims, they can also escalate the situation and cause further harm.

FAQ: Internet Vigilantism

What is Internet Vigilantism?

Internet Vigilantism refers to the act of tracking and punishing individuals or groups who are perceived as guilty of some wrongdoing by using online platforms and digital technology. This is often done without proper legal procedures, and instead depends on collective public action and social media campaigns.

What are some examples of Internet Vigilantism?

Examples of Internet Vigilantism include hunting down and revealing the identity of alleged criminals or wrongdoers, public shaming of individuals who exhibit questionable behavior, online harassment campaigns against those perceived to have performed a grievous act, and using technology to disrupt the lives of the targeted individuals or groups.

Is Internet Vigilantism legal?

Internet Vigilantism is a complex issue when it comes to legality. Depending on the actions taken by the vigilantes, as well as the laws governing the region where such activities take place, some forms of Internet Vigilantism may be considered legal, while others may not be. Additionally, the line between legal and illegal actions can often be blurred, making it difficult to determine the legality of specific instances of Internet Vigilantism without a thorough investigation.

What are the potential consequences of Internet Vigilantism?

Internet Vigilantism can have several consequences, both positive and negative. While it has the potential to expose and punish individuals who would otherwise have gone unnoticed, it can also lead to harassment, character assassination, or invasion of privacy for individuals who may be innocent. Furthermore, it can potentially obstruct the course of justice by promoting mob mentality and undermining official legal procedures.

How can someone protect themselves from Internet Vigilantism?

To protect oneself from Internet Vigilantism, it is essential to exercise caution when sharing personal information online and to maintain privacy on social media platforms. Additionally, keeping personal and professional online identities separate and minimizing the amount of easily identifiable information that is accessible to the public can help reduce the risk of becoming a target of online vigilantism.

Related Technology Terms

  • Cyber-lynching
  • Online shaming
  • Doxing (or “doxxing”)]]>

  • Hacktivism
  • Anonymous collective

Sources for More Information


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