Analysis of Decision Logic in Reporting Behavior from the Perspective of Internet


The Internet, as one of the most important channels for citizens to obtain and publish information, has an increasing influence on citizens’ whistle-blowing decisions. An in-depth analysis of the impact of the Internet on potential reporters can not only clarify the mechanism of network information on individual decision-making, but also provide a better suggestion for improving China’s network supervision policy. [Method/Process] Based on cost-benefit analysis and Prospect Theory, this research analyzes the impact mechanism of Internet on the ethical judgment, utility evaluation and probability expectation of citizen reporting decision-making process. [Results/Conclusions] The impact of the Internet on reporting decisions mainly includes three stages: the potential whistleblower’s expectation of positive response to netizens strengthens their own cognition of social citizenship, thereby breaking the ethical barriers to loyalty judgments; the anonymous mechanism reduces the potential whistleblower’s estimate of the risk cost; and the rendering effect of online news increases the expectations of potential whistleblowers for the probability of reporting success.

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Deng, S. (2019) Analysis of Decision Logic in Reporting Behavior from the Perspective of Internet. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 7, 304-321. doi: 10.4236/jss.2019.74024.

1. Introduction

In recent years, network public opinion incidents caused by reporting emerge endlessly. On March 13, 2017, an anonymous report was made on Tianya Forum by the internal staff of Shaanxi Aokai Cable Co, that the cables used in Xi’an Subway Line 3 were “jerry work and material reduction, and all product indicators did not meet the metro construction standards”, which aroused strong criticism from netizens about collusion between officials and businessmen and supervision of government engineering projects. After nearly three months of investigation and treatment by The State Council investigation team, the incident was notified. A total of 122 people from relevant government departments and subordinate units were accountable1. Later, the incident promoted the adjustment of the bidding system by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance. In 2018, internal staff reported that Changchun Changsheng Enterprise produced and sold substandard vaccines, and then the rapid dissemination of “King of Vaccines” on the Internet triggered panic of vaccines. Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council and President Xi Jinping of the State Council gave instructions to the incident successively, and the quality supervision department initiated an investigation of the enterprises involved and a comprehensive rectification of the entire vaccine industry...2 The aforementioned incidents have attracted the attention of netizens and high-level politicians, and promoted the adjustment of relevant policies. With the help of network public opinion, internal reporting has increasingly become an important way of social supervision. However, as far as micro-individuals are concerned, reporting behavior is a very complex and uncertain behavior process [1], which is manifested in the diversity of influencing factors, the diversity of reporting methods and the ethical contradiction of reporting behavior [2] [3] [4] [5]. Uncertainty is manifested in the destructiveness and unpredictability of the results of reporting behavior [2]. Especially in the context of the rapid development of Internet information technology, the innovation of information communication technology (ICT) based on Internet technology has created the advantages of the number of routes and the number of audiences of network communication, and provided the hardware and software support for public supervision and reporting [6]. Information dissemination technology improves the convenience and instantaneity of reporting actions, and also affects the decision-making logic of potential whistleblowers. However, the micro-mechanism remains to be further explored.

Therefore, this paper will focus on the following issues: under the background of the development of Internet information dissemination media and technology, what changes have occurred in the decision-making logic of potential whistleblower’s reporting behavior? How do potential whistleblowers influence ethical judgments, cost-benefit comparisons and probability of success expectations? How does the reporting information influence the reporting results through the field of public opinion and political field? Based on the analysis of whistleblower’s action strategy, this paper proposes a decision-making process model of whistleblower’s action according to the subjective judgment of potential whistleblower. The remaining structure of this paper is as follows: The second part reviews and summarizes the existing literature. The third part discusses the ethical judgement of loyalty of reporting behavior and its game pattern transformation mode under the background of the Internet. The fourth part analyses potential whistleblower’s cost-benefit trade-offs and their risk estimates for anonymous online reporting. The fifth part explores the mechanism of network rendering effect on the expectation of potential whistleblower’s success probability. The fifth part is the conclusion and discussion.

2. Literature Review and Model Construction

2.1. Ethical Judgment, Cost-Benefit and Probability Expectation of Reporting Behavior

From the point of view of the decision-making research on reporting behavior at home and abroad, the existing research on the subject of reporting decision-making mainly focuses on the analysis of the influencing factors of reporting behavior, including the following three aspects: the motivation and ethical legitimacy of reporting behavior [1] [7], the cost-benefit analysis of reporting behavior [8] [9], and the reporting system, especially the construction and completion of the protection system and the reward system for the informer [10] [11] [12] etc. Endogenous ethical contradiction is the key factor to generate the impulse to report and encourage the behavior of reporting [1] [13]. Social climate and national culture [14], organizational climate and organizational support [15] [16] and personal morality and pro-social tendencies [17] [18] have an impact on the ethical judgment of potential whistleblowers. Support from the outside world is confirmed to be significantly related to the decision [19], which strengthen the whistleblower identity to the justice of the behavior of reporting. And the interactive behavior to the reporting information of Internet users, such as like, forwarding, and comment is a kind of support and solidarity itself.

Cost-benefit analysis of reporting behavior is another important factor influencing the decision to report. Qiao Defu extracts the main cost of reporting (opportunity cost, economic cost and risk cost) and benefits (material reward, social praise and self accomplishment), and highlights the main effect of the risk cost of retaliation on the whistleblower. In this sense, the reported decision is a typical risk decision. D Kennett using experimental method tested that the expected personal cost and social benefits significantly affect potential whistleblower’s decisions [20]. Reporting rewards is an effective mechanism, and reporting rewards helps to increase the willingness of individuals and associations to report [15]. Figure 1 shows that the social information processing model developed by Gundlach and others illustrates the impact of cost-benefit analysis and attribution of misconduct on reporting decisions, and arranges them in parallel. But at the same time, the author points out that this process may also be more continuous [21].

Figure 1. The social information processing model of whistleblowing decision.

A large number of domestic anti-corruption studies on the Internet have pointed out that the development of the Internet has a positive impact on citizens’ political participation and public awareness [22] [23] [24] [25]. The Internet is gradually becoming an important means and carrier of public supervision in China [26]. From an objective point of view, network communication and cultural concepts play a fundamental and decisive role in reporting corrupt acts [27]. Network reporting helps to improve the probability of illegal acts being discovered, illegal elements being investigated and punished [28]. However, from the subjective level, potential whistleblowers are more important in predicting the probability of success of whistleblowers’ decision-making behavior. In fact, the research in this area is still relatively rare.

Academic circles have made great achievements in the study of reporting behavior, But there is still something worth exploring. Firstly, it is debatable to discuss the ethical contradiction of loyalty in general, because there are significant differences in the action modes of different reporting forms. For example, only “insider reporting” (also known as Internal Whistle blowing) has ethical contradiction problem, but “external whistling” (also known as External Whistle blowing) does not have. On the contrary, as long as the report is true, outsiders’ reporting behavior itself has natural legitimacy, public welfare and justice, which is essentially the exercise of citizens’ right to supervise. Secondly, the current academic circles have noticed the important role of the Internet in social supervision, but the discussion of its micro-mechanism is still insufficient. In the context of the Internet, the ethical judgment and cost-benefit trade-offs of potential whistleblowers’ reporting behavior may be significantly adjusted. Existing studies have pointed out the detailed classification and combination of cost and benefit of reporting behavior, but the analysis of the mechanism affecting cost-benefit expectation needs to be further promoted, especially the reverse impact mechanism of huge energy contained in the Internet on potential micro-individual decision-making. Thirdly, the existing research mainly explores the objective influencing factors of reporting behavior, ignoring the subjective decision-making logic of the informer; it still remains in the description of anti-corruption phenomena, trends and characteristics of the network or in the macro analysis of the interaction between the “crowd view” of the netizens and the government’s response. The research on the subjective decision-making process of micro-individuals, especially the key person of network events, whistleblowers, needs to be further promoted.

2.2. Model Construction

Fig 1 Decision Model of Reporting Behavior from Internet Perspective

Figure 2. The logic model of reporter’s behavior from the perspective of internet.

In this sense, it can well explain the micro-process of reporting decision-making. It is embodied in the ethical judgement of loyalty (preference and cognitive process), cost-benefit comparison (expectation value prediction) and the expectation of success probability (utility evaluation). Based on the above analysis, this study constructs a micro-decision-making process model for potential whistleblowers. Overall, the model includes two parts: the mechanism of the Internet and the subjective decision-making process of potential whistleblowers. At the micro level, the reporting decision-making process is abstracted into four continuous judgment links.

We will discuss our model and related propositions in three parts. In the first part, we will discuss the differences between insiders and outsiders in the face of wrong behavior, and analyze the problem of loyalty judgment faced by insiders (Is the reporting behavior right?). However, the micro-criticism of netizens will probably transform the loyalty judgment of informants into the legitimacy judgment of organizational behavior, and at the same time strengthen the potential informants’ recognition of the prosocial attributes of reporting behavior. In the second part, we analyze the cost-benefit expectations of potential whistleblowers changed by the anonymity mechanism. (Is the reporting behavior good?) In the third part, the rendering of network information changes the expectation of the success probability of the informer (Is the informing behavior viable?).

3. Interpretation of the Logic Model of Reporter’s Behavior from the Perspective of Internet

3.1. Ethical Judgment of Reporting Behavior and Elimination of Ethical Dilemma

Not all reporting practices have ethical dilemmas. From the relationship between the whistleblower and the organization been reported, the whistling behavior can be divided into insider reporting (whistling) and outsider reporting. Among them, outsider reporting does not need to consider ethical issues. However, for potential insider whistleblowers, “loyalty” or “betrayal” is an unavoidable ethical obstacle. Some scholars believe that internal whistling is a pro-social behavior, consistent with public service motivation (PSM) [1] [31] ; “By exposing and correcting corruption, fraud and other types of illegal acts in the public and private sectors, reporting is considered to be an integral part of corporate (organizational) governance” [32]. “Help organizational managers to identify erroneous tendencies and prevent further harm to the interests of the organization and the public.” [33]. Some scholars who support the theory of “organizational contract priority” believe that employees and enterprises conclude contractual relationships through labor contracts. Loyalty obligations are collateral obligations derived from the principle of good faith. They cannot “betray” labor contracts to emphasize loyalty [18]. So, how can the Internet break through the ethical dilemma? This paper holds that there are two different strategies: First, the strategy of strengthening justice. Through the sensational effect of network information, we can strengthen the social citizen’s identity awareness and the justice cognition of organizational citizenship behavior of potential whistleblowers, and realize the transformation from loyalty to organization to loyalty to society. Second, the strategy of agenda transformation. Through the network agenda setting, we can guide the “bystanders” to change the ethical judgment of reporting behavior to the judgment of the legitimacy of organizational behavior. For example, the informers in public opinion events such as the cable incident and the vaccine incident in Xi’an Metro are all members of the organization. After the incident was exposed, a wave of public opinion quickly formed. Netizens’ watching and discussing topics shifted from worrying, admiring and praising the informers to “picking up dung” of the enterprises involved, and then to torturing the work of the regulatory authorities and reflecting on the system.

3.1.1. Justice Enhancement Strategy: Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Social Loyalty Cognition

Every social person is the result of the superposition of multiple social identities. Ethical Climates Theory holds that each individual has two basic identity attributes: organizational members and social citizens. In this sense, potential whistleblowers’ subjective perception of the multiple identities of “Organizational Citizenship” and “Social Citizenship” is the key factor in whistleblower decision-making. Reporting behavior is complex and uncertain, and it may be destructive or even destructive to the organization. Through quantitative research, Bowen R M and All A C found that, as far as individuals are concerned, enterprises exposed may have a further negative impact; but as a whole, exposed reporting targets are more likely to further improve corporate governance [34]. Therefore, reporting is a useful mechanism to discover institutional problems and promote organizational self-purification. It belongs to Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB). Most of the existing research results default to the basic assumptions of full transparency and legitimacy of organizational behavior when analyzing the impact or harm of reporting behavior on the organization. However, every organization has many aspects. Every industry has its own latent rules system. With the tacit consent of practitioners in the industry, enterprise organizations rely on such latent rules to accelerate the operation of the organization. At the same time, they wander around the edge of the law and form a primitive game equilibrium within the industry to realize the normalization of “wrong behavior within the industry” [35]. Until internal reporting breaks the original balance within the industry, making “hidden rules” exposed as “dominant rules”, these enterprise organizations are forced to accept the review of the public and even the legitimacy of the law.

The category and object of “loyalty” is also a subjective cognitive process, including organizational loyalty based on labor contract and social loyalty based on conscience. Pan and Chen’s research points out that for the survival and progress of political career, local government leaders in China have inherent incentives to conceal or withhold information to ensure that their career prospects are not endangered. In addition to the imperfection in the process of law construction and enforcement, the information reported as the original evidence material may be intercepted, deleted or even leaked in the process of government level transmission [36]. Therefore, if potential whistleblowers choose to report through traditional official channels, they may face the situation that confronts the whole unknown alliance of interests alone, and bear the stigma of “betraying organizations”, or even be retaliated by the whistleblowers. However, the dissemination and sensationalism of the network help to transform the game pattern between the whistleblowers and informants, and the netizens turn their support to the whistleblower through the observation and interaction in the public sphere (such as praise, forwarding and comment). Reporting information through the selective “amplification mechanism” of the media has produced a “sensation effect” [20]. Figure 3 shows that with the help of public opinion, the whole game pattern has been turned into digging out the details and truth of “unknown interests alliance” by “all netizens”. For whistleblowers, standing in the same camp with the vast number of netizens can strengthen their social loyalty tendency. Generally speaking, the security factor of whistleblowers will be improved and the possibility of retaliation will be reduced after the initiation of the network agenda. Things like “whistleblowers are retaliated” will likely further

Figure 3. Game pattern transformation chart between whistleblower and whistleblower.

promote public opinion criticism. It is clear that both the public sector and the private sector do not want to expand the development of events, and continue to form a new wave of public opinion.

3.1.2. Agenda Transformation Strategy: The Transformation from Loyalty Judgment of Reporting Behavior to Legitimacy Judgment of Organizational Behavior

The anonymity, dissemination and sensationalism of the network make it possible to transform the loyalty judgment of internal reporting into the legitimacy judgment of organizational behavior. Based on the distrust of official channels, some whistleblowers choose to express their opinions and appeal for interests through open channels on the Internet. The literature based on 170 Network Anti-corruption case data from 2008 to 2015, indicated that more than half of the Network Anti-corruption incidents were not promptly responded by the government [37]. However, the institutionalized and standardized government response system and the public opinion control system have gradually formed with the promulgation and implementation of government normative documents such as the Regulations on the Opening of Government Information and the Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Further Strengthening the Opening of Government Information to Respond to Social Concerns and Promote the Government’s Public Credit. On the other hand, these network opinion leaders will promote the transformation of the network agenda, and realize the transformation of loyalty judgment of reporting behavior to a deeper level of legitimacy judgment of organizational behavior, because both self-Media and traditional media have the need to attract attention and flow of self-interest. In the “Problem Cable” incident of Xi’an Metro in 2017, the informer in the case, as an insider who understands the “inside” of the case, knows that what he face will be a powerful “umbrella” interests alliance. Also, the traditional way of reporting will most likely fail, even reveal his identity. Therefore, whistleblowers choose the strategy of “appealing to the public”― to report anonymously in the influential Tianya Forum. This sensational news involves the safety of the lives and property of more than 8 million people in Xi’an. Once it was revealed, it quickly became a popular network topic, and attracted high-level attention, which connected the network agenda to the political agenda. At this time, the whistleblower’s loyalty judgment to the organization is no longer important. More importantly, all netizens judge the legitimacy of the behavior of the organization been reported, and then dig deeply into the collusion between government and business behind illegal activities.

3.2. The Impact of Network Anonymity on the Cost-Benefit Balance of Reporting

Most researches of the reports follow the traditional cost-benefit theory, which consider that the cost and benefit of reports are the direct factors restricting people’s participation in anti-corruption, and the risk cost of anticipated retaliation is the key trigger point of reporting. Some scholars point out that anonymous online reports are conducive to evading retaliation [15] [20] [21] [38]. However, this study finds that anonymous online reporting is not equal to real anonymity. Therefore, anonymous online reporting does not reduce the risk of retaliation, but to a certain extent, it reduces the risk expectation of potential whistleblowers to suffer retaliation, thereby improving their willingness of reporting.

Firstly, “the behavior of economic man is the result of cost-benefit analysis... There is no difference in people’s basic motivation for behavior, which is to maximize utility, and so is reporting behavior”. To sum up, the existing research points out that the reporting income mainly includes the social, economic and spiritual benefits obtained by the masses after reporting. Specifically speaking: first, economic benefits, i.e. material rewards from relevant departments; second, social praise; third, sense of self-achievement, i.e. spiritual satisfaction and sense of achievement within the whistleblower. The cost of internal reporting includes: first, economic cost, that is, the direct cost of all kinds of expenses, time occupancy, energy consumption and so on. The second is opportunity cost, i.e. the revenue generated by reporting the various resources consumed for other activities. The third is the risk cost, that is, the risk cost of retaliation, such as job transfer, demotion, pay reduction, psychological stress, mental trauma, physical injury, etc. [15] [20] [21] [38]. Among them, the direct cost and opportunity cost are predictable, but the cost of retaliation is unpredictable. The possibility of retaliation against whistleblowers is affected by factors such as confidentiality and protection. When an internal whistleblower chooses to make a report, it means that he will no longer consider the direct cost and opportunity cost, then the risk cost of retaliation is left. Based on the above analysis, there are two possibilities for the decision-making of reporting: 1) When the risk cost is low, the whistleblower will carry out the action of reporting when he is not expected to suffer retaliation. 2) When the expected return of reporting is greater than the risk cost of counteracting retaliation, the reporting behavior may also occur. The more the residual income, the more willing the masses to report [15] [20]. However, the practice shows that, compared with increasing the revenue of reporting, ensuring that whistleblowers are protected from retaliation is more effective in protecting the enthusiasm of the masses to report [40]. According to the above analysis, it can be seen that the risk cost of retaliation is one of the most important factors affecting the informer to make a report.

However, it is worth noting that in real society, anonymous reporting on the Internet does not mean anonymity in real sense. Because through certain technical means, we can identify any IP address of information publishing, plus video surveillance technology, and even accurate to the specific information publisher. Butit is undeniable that the anonymity of the network to a certain extent reduces the risk cost expectations of potential whistleblowers. However, in order to gain the audience of netizens, whistleblowers need to provide more internal information to improve authenticity and credibility, at the same time, the risk cost of being locked in by whistleblowers will increase. A large number of academic research results on reporting and online reporting unilaterally emphasize the first-order “anonymity” of network channels, but neglect the second-order behavior results of reporting content. For example, in the case of “Problem Cable” in Xi’an Metro, the informer exposed the cable production information, internal operation information and internal relationship information of AoKai Company, and pointed out that the cable produced by AoKai Company was jerry-built and inferior, which did not meet the national standards. AoKai Company also formed interest alliance through human relations; won bids many times through “greeting” and lowering prices; evades quality control through bribery. The report clearly points out the name of the person, the relationship and the data of the cable involved. Undoubtedly, these detailed materials enhance the credibility of the report content, which is an important factor for the report to attract a lot of attention in a short time. However, from the point of view of enterprise management, the range of people who can know so much top-level internal confidential information, informal relations and internal operation process is very limited. That is to say, it is an anonymous report to the outside world, but it is a “limited anonymous report” to the accused or the organization been reported. Fortunately, the incident attracted high-level attention at an unexpected rate and promoted the publicity of the event. However, it should be noted that because of the contradiction between the excessive information on the Internet and the scarcity of the attention of netizens [41], there must be a large number of information fail to enter the network agenda, so the situation of these informants is dangerous. They will always be faced with the plight of being found or even retaliated by the informants or organizations and failing to arouse the attention and solidarity of the network.

3.3. Network Rendering Improves the Expectation of Reporter’s Success Probability

Some scholars point out that potential whistleblowers’ reporting actions are based on good expectations of the success probability of network exposure and the weak credible threat after network exposure. Negative information such as “the struggle of the weak” and “the punishment of the bad” is naturally attractive. Regarding reporting, there are two types of news attracting attention in the network: happy heartbeat news (illegal elements are reported and investigated, etc.) and indignant news (whistleblowers are retaliated, etc.). “In traditional stories, noble individuals struggle with soulless organizations and are persecuted, but ultimately the results of victory are tempting and ubiquitous” [41]. On the one hand, the rendering of network news reduces the tolerance of potential whistleblowers for wrong behavior, on the other hand, it improves the probability of success of potential whistleblowers for reporting behavior. Expected Utility Theory [25] holds that “decision-making is essentially a subjective action, which directly affects not the objective factors such as wealth itself, but the cognitive results of decision-makers on these factors”. Further, Prospect theory points out that when small probability events are involved, risk decision preference will change and “obsession with small probability events” will occur, that is, most people are risk averse when facing small probability profits (success), while most people are risk likers when facing small probability losses (failure). Reporting behavior is a kind of risk decision-making. Prospect theory holds that the process of risk decision-making includes two stages: editing and evaluation. In the editing stage, decision makers collect and process information according to “Frame” and “Reference Point”. In the evaluation stage, decision makers rely on value function and subjective probability weight function to judge information and make decisions [43]. Exposure of the process and details of reporting cases on the Internet has formed a “reference point” (first impression or first information) for potential whistleblowers, while criticism of illegal acts by mainstream media and netizens and support for whistleblowers have subtly increased the weight of subjective probability judgment of potential whistleblowers. It can be predicted that in pure public welfare reporting, the informant has placed the utility level of others (public interest) in his utility function and given a positive utility weight [30].

Mass media and self-Media have a great influence on the decision-making of public reporting behavior by following up, reporting, interpreting and commenting on reporting events. The media, especially the self-media, have obvious “hot spots” phenomenon, which further aggravates the sensational effect of network incidents, especially the two kinds of incidents, namely, the denunciation of evil forces and the solidarity with vulnerable groups. Other social factors such as news media, authoritative ideas and political events have an impact on individual rational decision-making, [28] and reduce the tolerance of potential whistleblowers to misconduct and improve the probability of success of potential whistleblowers implicitly. Weber and Hsee found that Chinese people have a greater risk preference than Americans when faced with risk options and determinations, whether in terms of gains or losses, through comparative experiments between China and the United States.

Government response mechanism is a positive driving force for online reporting. Generally speaking, once the exposure of negative information attracts the attention of netizens, the public sector must respond publicly and initiate an open and transparent investigation and treatment of public doubts or emergencies. The trigger points of the events such as “Problem Cable” in Xian Metro in 2017 and “Vaccine Event” in 2018 all come from a report letter. Then, through the screening of public agenda, network agenda and political agenda, they quickly enter the macro-decision-making system at the top of politics. The “ME TOO” campaign, which is popular all over the world, has inspired one after another women who have been infringed to stand up bravely to testify against the infringer, which shows that the network rendering has increased the willingness of potential informers to report. However, it is an unavoidable fact that some of the reported information is still lost in the sea and no one is interested in it. In fact, only a few cases have successfully changed the status quo (ME Social, E Lee, et al., 2001). In the design of the reporting system in the West, it is generally required that the external reporting behavior of the members of the organization should occur after exhausting the internal channels are ineffective. However, within the organization, the general members of the organization are often in a weak position in power, information and appeal, and their voices are difficult to obtain by the high-level, but the flattening of the network helps to solve the constraints of hierarchy. However, whether it can become a public event network is an important factor affecting the outcome of reporting behavior., The biggest risk of network reporting behavior is the situation that “the informer knows, but the masses don’t know”. Therefore, for whistleblowers, the success of reporting is not the probability of success of “0 - 1”, but the dual outcome of “0 or 1”, that is, the inner choice of “if not successful, benevolence will be achieved”.

The lower filing rate of discipline inspection departments inhibits the access to information from official channels. According to the data of letters and interviews reported in recent years, the indicators are on the rise in general, especially after the 18th National Congress (2012), the relevant data has risen sharply. Through strong political action, the top-down “mine-sweeping” campaign of “fighting tigers and flies” has been carried out by the top-down political leaders. The national anti-corruption campaign has shown the “three high” momentum of “the central government attaches great importance to it”, “the people attach great importance to it” and “the corrupt officials are highly nervous”. Nevertheless, overall, the rate of filing is still relatively low. Even in the “worst anti-corruption season in history” of 2012-2016, the average filing rate of petition reports (number of cases filed/number of petition reports) in China was only 11.25%. In 2015, the number of petition reports reached 2.81 million, while the number of cases filed was only 330,000. The number of petition reports increased sharply while the number of cases filed increased slowly, which made the filing rate obvious in 2014-2015. In 2016, the highest rate of filing was 16.27%. This has led to a psychological expectation of distrust of official channels and forced people to choose more direct online reporting. Compared with the long processing cycle of official reporting channels, the responsiveness of official departments to online reporting can be said to be immediate. Therefore, most cases of online reporting have similar plots, either turn to the network without response through the official report; or report in two channels together, and so on.

4. Conclusions

The consistency of loyalty judgment is a controversial issue in academic circles. Whistleblowers are a special group, who want to enforce the law and regulate the action of affirming justice according to their ethical knowledge. However, the reprisals of organizations and the bad name of betrayers make them hesitate to report actions. This paper introduces the theory of Organizational Citizenship Behavior (ocB) and extends it to some extent. Organizational citizenship behavior mainly refers to the informal cooperative behavior that employees actively perform certain informal roles and contract agreements, and emphasizes the positive effect of this behavior on the organization. Insider’s reporting behavior may cause harm to the organization from the micro point of view, but from the macro industry development and long-term organizational development point of view, it is beneficial to the organization’s development through finding out the organizational errors and correcting them. In addition, each social person is the result of the superposition of multiple social identities, among which the basic identities include organizational citizenship and social citizenship. Whether as an organizational citizen or a social citizen, reporting behavior has moral rationality, and to a certain extent, breaks down the ethical barriers to the implementation of reporting behavior.

The cost-benefit trade-off of reporting is an important mechanism for reporting behavior. In fact, when reporting behavior occurs, especially for public welfare reporting, whistleblowers tend to pay more attention to risk costs rather than personal gains, the most important of which is the risk of retaliation. In order to improve the credibility and sensationalism of reporting information, whistleblowers have to provide more internal specific information. Therefore, network anonymity is often not real anonymity, or even self-exposure to a certain extent, but whistleblowers pin their hope on the shelter of network power, because as long as there is enough attention, they are safe.

The essence of reporting is the disclosure, transmission and dissemination of information, so there is a close relationship between the change of reporting behavior mode and the development of communication and information technology. The field of information dissemination has gone through the development process of “information scarcity to channel scarcity, then to attention scarcity” [44]. In a sense, the development of reporting channels has experienced a similar development process, from oral media to paper media, then from mass media to self-media innovation. In the age of self-media, every independent social individual can be the “source” and “receiver” of information. On the one hand, the convenience, instantaneity, openness, transparency and efficiency of the network make the network public reporting the most extensive and direct way of reporting. The cluster effect, amplification effect and sensational effect of the network endow the “energy” of “four or two sets of kilograms” of reporting information, start the agenda of network public opinion, and then start the direct intervention of high-level politics, even lead to policy changes. Because of the principle of territorial management, hierarchical responsibility and “who is in charge and who is in charge” in the petition reporting system, the reporting information must be transmitted through multi-level information transmission. A large amount of information is leaked or intercepted in this process [45]. However, with the trend of “delocalization” beyond time and space, public opinion can reach different levels at the same time. The dissemination of the network has broken the “withholding” of public opinion and the monopoly of decision-making by the secondary decision-making system. This makes people keen on online reporting, and abandon the official reporting channels.

5. Discussion

With the in-depth study of reporting behavior decision-making, relevant scholars have made in-depth interpretation from their respective perspectives, but the traditional cost-benefit analysis or ethical analysis has some limitations. This study is based on the phenomenon of Internet reporting. This paper decomposes the process of reporting decision-making in three stages from a more microcosmic level. This paper decomposes the process of reporting decision-making in three stages from a more microcosmic level. It not only links ethical analysis with utility analysis, but also introduces the factors of “probability of success expectation” based on the risk of the results of reporting behavior, and explores the subtle changes of network rendering mechanism on the “framework” and “reference point” of potential whistleblowers’ decision-making analysis. Of course, there are some points worth further consideration in this paper. We can only describe the “syllogism” of reporting decision-making and the triggering mechanism of the Internet to reporting behavior through logical deduction, but it is difficult for us to accurately describe the specific boundaries of the three stages in the actual decision-making process, which needs further study. Since 1985, when Near J. P. and Micheli M. P. initiated the study of reporting behavior, many scholars have studied the related issues of reporting and achieved a series of research results. However, previous studies have paid more attention to the analysis of potential whistleblowers’ willingness to report and its influencing factors. Studies on whistleblowers who have actually experienced the process of reporting or even being attacked and retaliated are still rare. There may be great differences in the perception of whistleblowers between the two groups. On the other hand, there are more and more studies on risk decision-making in behavioral economics, but there are few studies on quantitative analysis of reporting decision-making from the perspective of behavioral economics. Therefore, in the future, we can use the behavioral economics research method to make a more basic and objective study of reporting behavior. In addition, we can make a more specific distinction in the research object and make a comparative analysis of it. We hope to further explore these issues in future research.


This work was supported by 2018 Special Funds for the Cultivation of Guangdong College Students’ Scientific and Technological Innovation. (“Climbing Program” Special Funds.) (Grant No.pdjhb0070).


1Website of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China. Circular of the General Office of the State Council on the Investigation and Handling of the “Problem Cable” Incident of Xi’an Metro and Its Lessons [EB/OL]. (2019-4-3) [2017-6-26].

2The official website of the State Drug Administration, State Drug Administration’s decision on administrative punishment of Changchun Changsheng Company [EB/OL]. (2019-4-3) [2018-10-16].

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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