Why Netizens Report Harmful Content Online: A Moderated Mediation Model

Xinzhou Xie, Lin Shi, Yaoying Zhu


Internet content governance appeals to the systematic coordination of multiple social actors. In addition to government regulation and platform governance, people’s initiatives and participation have become increasingly critical. Based on cognitive dissonance theory, our article investigates the psychological mechanism of people’s behavioral intentions to report harmful content online. A cross-sectional survey involving 3,000 Chinese netizens was conducted. The empirical results showed that the perceived necessity of Internet content governance was positively related to behavioral intention to report harmful content online through the mediation of aversion to harmful Internet content and that information-seeking motive negatively moderated the relationship between perceived necessity and aversion. This moderated mediation model provides theoretical and practical implications for understanding and playing the role of netizens in Internet content governance.


Internet content governance, content reporting, harmful content, cognitive dissonance, usage motive

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