Lurking with paedophile hunters: understanding virtual ethnography and its benefits for policing research

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The Internet is an omnipresent medium that intersects our everyday lives. Since the late 1990s, technologies that allow users to access information and to communicate over the World Wide Web have become widespread. At the same time, criminals and criminal communities have exploited these new avenues of virtual socio-cultural forms to find innovative ways to commit crime. These developments represent multiple and expanding opportunities for interdisciplinary research, and one such research frontier within the social sciences is virtual ethnography. This chapter explores the application of the ethnographic method to the study of virtual communities and interaction, and the potential benefits this method brings to policing research. Its focus is on the method of lurking (covert non-participant observation), and how researchers have adopted this method for collecting and exploring virtual crime, criminal and deviant groups, as well as the policing responses to cybercrime. The chapter also explores some of the key ethical challenges and limitations that virtual ethnography and lurking pose for Internet researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge International Handbook of Police Ethnography
EditorsJenny Flemming, Sarah Charman
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781003083795
ISBN (Print)9780367539399
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge International Handbooks

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