Identity in a Self-styled ‘Paedophile-hunting’ Group: A Linguistic Analysis of Stance in Facebook Group Chats

Emily Chiang*, Mark De Rond, Jaco Lok

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article contributes a linguistically informed perspective to a growing body of work describing the nature and practices of self-styled ‘paedophile-hunting’ groups. Their reliance on publicly exposing suspected child predators in live-streamed confrontations poses significant moral and practical challenges for UK law enforcement, even if their evidence has proved significant in the conviction of sex offenders. In this article, we extend extant insight through the linguistic analysis of 18 months of private online group chat data from one of the UK’s most prolific hunting teams. Specifically, we explore the group’s collective linguistic identity performance through a corpus-assisted analysis of stance. Our analysis foregrounds the significance of social bonding and community identity and nuances current understanding of hunters’ negative view of the police. It also suggests that the entertainment value of the detective work involved in hunting may be more significant than the emphasis on hunters’ self-proclaimed moral superiority in extant work suggests.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Linguistics
Early online date6 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s) (2023). Published by Oxford University Press.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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