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:
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:
- 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.