What is Doxing?

Doxing/Doxxing is the the abbreviation for document tracing. It is the practice of searching for private information (names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, employer’s names) on someone with the malicious intent of either making the information discovered public such as publishing phone numbers or photos of the person’s home or job location or using the information against the person to cause harm to their life by contacting employers, family and friends and spreading lies and false information about the person in an attempt to coerce them into silence.

Doxers mine information from social media accounts and publicly available information such as registry of property in an attempt to track down any person connected with the people targeted as possible love interests.

Hateful messages are posted by “sock puppet” accounts (dummy accounts created specifically for the purpose of harassment and to hide the real person’s identity) on social media using the information to intimidate and harass the person to leave social media. It’s a cowardice way to harass but it’s practice is far and widespread on social media within fandoms.

Here is an actual Outlander fan who was doxed several times. What occurred in her case was that someone contacted her employer as a ‘concerned’ person and made up lies about the person suggesting that she was not doing her job. The victim was put on probation by her employer when she was doxed by other members of the Outlander fandom. This woman was targeted by Obsessive Shippers as being a former outspoken critic of shipping. They had zero proof other than speculation and using some information the victim had posted, figured out where the victim worked. They previously sent her images of the building she worked in and through mining of various posts figured out her name. They they contacted her employer. After the third time being contacted the victim was placed on probation based on lies. She’s left social media and has indicated she will consider legal solutions.

Here is her last post before deleting her account:

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One thing to note that doxing is illegal and there are both state and Federal laws about doxing. There have been several convictions of activists and trolls who have doxed and threatened to dox people. Even if the information is public and published on a website or obtained via a query to a search engine; if the intent is the threaten to dox; a law has been broken.

One issue to note that the laws clearly state that there doesn’t need to be proof that actual doxing occurred only that the threat of doxing was made.

So those publishing threats or photos of homes or workplaces, or discussing on social media sites where individuals work or what businesses they own have all broken the law.

The other caveat with these laws is that since the threats are usually made on the internet that any state’s law that is applicable can be used as the backbone of the internet’s electronic data could have passed through any state in the US so a person in Missouri dox threatening a person in Oregon could be held up to the very tough California stalking laws as some of the data bits of the threat may have passed through a California server on it’s way to the destination.

Before you go off and start professing about First Amendment rights or in general “Free Speech” rights let me cite an expert on what is a threat. This are direct citations of Michael Prout who is the Assistant Director for Judicial Security United States Marshals Service that he presented to a sentencing commission on the 2007 implementation of the Court security Improvement Act of 2007 which was designed to create new penalties for individuals found guilty of threatening judges and their families, in addition to allocating additional resources to keep judges safe. In his briefing he covered what a threat is:

“- A threat is defined as an inappropriate interest, circumstance, or event that
causes, or could potentially cause, damage to a target whether it is a person,
location, or specific event. A threat can be any action, whether explicit or
implied, of intent to assault, resist, impede, intimidate, or interfere with any
member of the judiciary, or other protectee. A threat may be communicated in
writing, verbally or through a third party.
– An inappropriate communication is any communication in writing, by
telephone, verbally, through an informant, or by some suspicious activity that
threatens, harasses, shows an unusual direction of interest, or makes unsettling
overtures of an improper nature directed to a protectee.
– A threat is always an inappropriate communication, but an
inappropriate communication is not always a threat.
Most Internet threateners, when confronted or challenged on their statement, will
claim they are only exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. And in many
cases, an examination of their speech could lead us to concur. To guard against violating
a person’s First Amendment right to free speech, the USMS requires the occurrence of a
“triggering event” before a protective investigation is initiated. In the area of threat
management, a “triggering event” is the receipt of an inappropriate communication, or a
reasonable indication that a possible threat exists.
However, one of the issues that make Internet threats so insidious is that
others who hear or read this “free speech” may interpret it differently; they may interpret it as a threat of violence, or as a call to violence, and be influenced to act out violently. If the threat on the Internet is also accompanied by restricted personal information, it can assist in facilitating the act of violence by locating the protectee.”
(Source: Michael Prout, Assistant Director for Judicial Security United States Marshals Service, Written Statement Presented to the United States Sentencing Commission Public Hearing on the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007, March 17, 2009)
So a ‘triggering event’ is the threat which he defines as and inappropriate communications (such as a posting) that “threatens, harasses, shows an unusual direction of interest, or makes unsettling overtures of an improper nature” by the standards of the United States Marshall’s service.
Once that occurs; all of your free speech and first amendment rights claims go out the window.
So before you ship aggressively and try to bully others thinking that you are behind a sock puppet account:
  • Think about your actions
  • What information about you can be found by doing an internet search?
  • Social Media Platforms cooperate with law enforcement officials and will turn over all of your private messages and actions online to them.
  • Your computer and devices (including workplace devices) can be confiscated by law enforcement officials if there is evidence of doxing.
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