Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 65–87 | Cite as

Flaming? What flaming? The pitfalls and potentials of researching online hostility

  • Emma A. Jane
Original Paper


This article identifies several critical problems with the last 30 years of research into hostile communication on the internet and offers suggestions about how scholars might address these problems and better respond to an emergent and increasingly dominant form of online discourse which I call ‘e-bile’. Although e-bile is new in terms of its prevalence, rhetorical noxiousness, and stark misogyny, prototypes of this discourse—most commonly referred to as ‘flaming’—have always circulated on the internet, and, as such, have been discussed by scholars from a range of disciplines. Nevertheless, my review of this vast body of literature reveals that online hostility has historically posed a number of conceptual, methodological, and epistemological challenges due to which scholars have typically underplayed, overlooked, ignored, or otherwise marginalised its prevalence and serious ethical and material ramifications. Fortunately, lessons learned from my analysis suggests promising approaches for future research into this challenging form of new media discourse.


E-bile Flaming Trolling Ethics Internet Gender 



An enormous debt of gratitude is owed to Nicole A Vincent who read and re-read this paper through umpteen iterations, never once losing patience, backing down from an argument, or offering anything but the most extraordinarily helpful suggestions (even if I did not always realise it at the time). AP.NAV: you are an intellectual of superlative style and substance and, without your tireless assistance, this paper would not exist in its current form—in fact it might not have existed at all. Many thanks, too, to Mark Rosalky and Chris Fleming.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of the Arts and Media (SAM)University of New South Wales (UNSW Australia)SydneyAustralia

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