Date of Award

Spring 5-25-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

International Crime and Justice

Language

English

First Advisor

Rosemary Barberet

Second Reader

Gohar Petrossian

Abstract

In this article, I propose and apply a digital vigilantism model to a specific incident that occurred in Mexico, where the death of two innocent people was filmed through Facebook Live. Using a mixed methods approach and content analysis, I analyzed digilante Facebook posts (N=942) coding gender, digital vigilantism categories, discriminatory comments, and punitive attitudes aimed at the perpetrators and the inciter of the lynching. The categories include investigating, blaming, or rebuking, while the discriminatory comments include classism, racism, homophobia, and body-shaming. I coded the punitive attitudes distinguishing four categories: non-physical punishment (calling for God’s wrath and the guilty conscience of the targets), legal sanction, death, and other punishment. The quantitative findings reveal that females tend to conduct more investigations and low level attacks (blaming) than males, but males tend to perpetrate more harsh attacks (rebuking) than females. Females comprised the majority of the posts calling for God's wrath and the target’s guilty conscience. However, most of the punitive attitudes aiming for a legal sanction and the death of the targets were espoused by males. The qualitative findings reveal the complexities of digilantism, wherein some digilantes are attempting to solve a crime; meanwhile, others are motivated by pleasure. Digilantes committing crimes and digilantes expressing legitimate opinions can interact with each other within a single case, challenging the police and prosecutor's efforts to investigate these cases. More research is needed using online data to study directly punitive attitudes and digital vigilantism practices instead of traditional research techniques such as surveys.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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