This article presents an analysis of a netnographic study of QQ groups engaged in contentious activities in China. Informed primarily by semi‐structured in‐depth interviews of 34 participants and field observations through years of grounded research, the findings shed light on the communicative dynamics and mobilization strategies of QQ groups in nurturing contentious action and motivating mass participation in social protest. In‐group communication stays highly focused on the respective mission of the groups, and it cultivates a sense of shared awareness conducive to collective action. There is also a noticeable contagion effect that transfers the spirit of contestation in terms of speech and action. Mobilizing dynamics in the QQ groups point to a hybrid model of activist‐brokered networks, which crosscuts and interconnects elements in Bennett and Segerberg’s (2012) prototype of self‐organizing networks and organizationally brokered networks. Group leaders and activists resort to a multi‐layered mechanism to dissipate contentious information and to mobilize participation in protests.

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Published in Media and Communications, Protesting While Polarized: Digital Activism in Contentious Times, v.10, no. 4.

© Zixue Tai. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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