Paedophile Hunting and Social Media: Towards an Understanding of Sex Offender Cyber Activism using Trend, Cluster and Thematic Analysis

  • Williams, Andrew (PI)

Project Details


This research investigates the social phenomenon of child sex offender cyber activism through a mixed methods analysis of ‘paedophile hunter’ groups and their use of social media to identify and publicly name and shame alleged sexual groomers of children. These groups engage in a challenge to the traditional model of active citizenship by using adult decoys who pose as children in online chat rooms and in social media apps, wait to be approached by adults (predominantly men) who proceed to engage in sexual communication with child decoys (e.g. see Campbell, 2016). The decoys arrange to meet their groomer, record the meeting and then use the evidence to ‘name and shame’ these individuals on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. These activities have direct implications for risk management, public protection and rehabilitation/resettlement of offenders in the community. All three of these areas are often in conflict with each other given the balancing of the human rights of the offender against protecting the public from child sexual abuse (Nash, 2006). Furthermore, figures have emerged that suggest 44% of court cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for the crime of meeting a child after sexual grooming used evidence from cyber activist groups (see ).

Sitting firmly within the UoP Research and Innovation themes of Democratic Citizen and Security and Risk, this research will focus on three areas: (i) developing (proof of concept) a quantitative database for conducting trend and cluster analysis of social media data of hunter groups cyber activism and the public’s responses; (ii) thematic analysis of social media data of hunter groups cyber activism and the public’s responses and; (iii) development of a research and training package for criminal justice professionals who have to deal with the aftermath and impact of this cyber activism. This research is both important and timely as, to date, there has been no systematic academic research of these groups or the implications and effects that their activities have on the criminal justice system, offenders and their families and victims and their families.
Effective start/end date1/08/1831/07/19


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