From the Editor: The Art of the Dox — Internet Vigilantism on the Rise

Roman King gives a scathing opinion of people responsible for dox attacks on the Internet.

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Roman King | U.S.

The dox. If you’re any familiar with internet culture, and possibly even if you aren’t, you’ve probably heard the term before. You’ve probably seen online news stories of people getting doxed, and if you haven’t, you have now. The dox is everywhere; a permanent part of internet society, and for some people, a constant threat. Some believe that it is a justified response against scummy people, exposing them to the real world to receive tangible consequences. Others believe it is a disgraceful perversion of freedom of speech to punish somebody for expressing words of ideas. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it exists, it happens daily, and it isn’t going away. Therefore, it would be within all of our best interests to be informed of what it is, what it entails, and what it could mean for you, the average internet user.

So what is “the dox”? What is “doxing”? A strange word, no doubt. The word is a shortened form of “documents”; identifiable and possibly private information pertaining to a specific person. Generally speaking, this includes a person’s home address, phone number, email address, place of employment, school, or what have you. Common sense should dictate that these details need not be posted publicly on the Internet, but even without explicit posting, anybody can name-search somebody based on their social media handle, find their dox, and do what they wish with it. It’s what hacktivists do with this information that begs the question of whether or not it’s a violation of privacy to dox people.

Despite the idealistic “revealing the scum of society” ethos of doxing, it is oftentimes little more than a political scare tactic against opposing opinions and can have devastating real-world consequences. A girl posted a picture with a Confederate battle standard and subsequently had her school name and location revealed on an activist social media account with more than 70,000 followers; she also received public death threats on her profile. “I truly hope you die in hell,” one commenter wrote. The comment received multiple likes and comments agreeing with that particular sentiment. In another circumstance, an entire alt-right Discord chat, dubiously named Pony Power, found the private information of over fifty anti-fascist protesters, in one case finding someone’s social security information. Bounties were put on their heads, and some of the affected people were forced to move to a new area of residence. FOX anchor Lou Dobbs once revealed the phone number and address of activist Jessica Leeds on air simply for accusing Donald Trump of inappropriate sexual advances. Doxing has been done by many people, from the rag-tag hacktivists to the social elite, and it should be common sense to consider it unacceptable in a free Internet.

That’s not the case, though, because people continue to do it. People continue to dox individuals on the daily, ignoring the fundamental right to privacy and free speech available on the Internet. This is not a partisan issue, either; if you say anything that another group could consider offensive, rude, or what have you, you run the risk of being doxed. If you participate in political activism, you run the risk of being doxed. If you so much as give your opinion in the wrong community, you run the risk of being doxed. This should be an issue that everybody with a voice on the Internet should care about. Instead of praising doxers as heroes who reveal the scum of society, we need to call these people out for their true motives; that being the elimination of all opposing thoughts. It is immoral, and, under many circumstances, illegal, breaking statutes that defend regular citizens against stalking, cyberstalking, and online harassment. We, as an internet community, need to take a resounding stand against this act of cowardice. After all, you may think that person wearing a Trump shirt in a school picture deserves public backlash and should have their privacy violated, but your tune would certainly surely change when a rogue right-wing hacktivist group did the same to you.

Nobody commenting on the Internet, no matter how stupid, ignorant, or wrong you may think they are, should have to do that in fear of having their lives ruined by cowards behind a phone screen. Doxing is bullying, and bullies are cowards. That’s just the long and short of it.

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