I respect Rebecca Watson. She is the founder of Skepchick.org and while I don’t agree with everything she writes, Watson is a principled person. Despite personally hating Monsanto, she nonetheless wrote a scathing criticism of the “Round-Up Causes Cancer” study that recently made the news. So when she wrote about doxing in a post titled “Why I’m Okay With Doxing”, I paid attention.
Watson, like many online personalities with an opinion, has been the target of threats, harassment and cyberbullying.
What good Internet citizen could possibly defend that most heinous of acts, the doxing?
Me. I seriously would not care.
I’m frankly tired of the black and white thinking that goes along with any discussion of doxing, as though an aggressive act is inherently evil regardless of who the target is and who the perpetrator is. Doxing is one of those acts that can be used for good or for ill. Like punching.
If someone sends me a threatening or harassing email, I see no reason to protect their identity.
I am, morally, 100% okay with this. Feminists owe these pieces of human garbage absolutely nothing. And while they go out of their way to investigate us, to find our addresses and publish them because we have the temerity to exist on the Internet, they can easily protect their own identity by simply not emailing us threats and harassment.
So, let it be known that I am a filthy doxer. If you harass women online, calling them slurs and threatening to rape and kill them, and if I find out your real name, I will publish it. If you tell me to kill myself on Twitter and I can link it to your Facebook, I will tell your uncle.
You should read the entire article. Watson’s comment about “punching” as an act used for either good or evil is a reference to a story she tells of how astronaut Buzz Aldrin belted conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel outside of a hotel after Sibrel refused to leave Aldrin alone as requested. Watson is a “person who understands that for some acts, the context matters in determining whether it’s a good or a bad thing. So it is for doxing. And if you follow me around calling me a liar and a coward, I will punch you in the face. ”
“Ignore the troll” has been the often advised, defacto remedy for dealing with online bullying and harassment but as people have discovered over the decades, it is an ineffective and unsatisfying resolution to the problem that ultimately stifles free speech of the victim. And so comes the urge to reach through the Internet abyss and — metaphorically — smack the trolls back.
Victims are taking it to a new level. Doxing their harassers isn’t enough. I found numerous cases of people exposing the identities of their harassers and then contacting family members as a method of applying even more pressure on the harasser. Rebecca Watson mentions having contacted the uncle of one of her harassers. Mary Beard rallied her followers to contact her harassing trolls’ mothers; Pennsylvania state lawmaker, House Rep. Brian Sims, hit back at an internet troll who called him the n-word and a “fa—-” by calling his grandmother and telling her what her grandson had done. Leo Traynor wrote a fascinating article about confronting his harasser who had terrified him and his wife…it was a friend’s 17 year old son. Amanda Kleinman is the subject of a Washington Post article, “There’s no good way to deal with trolls, so you might as well tattle to their moms”, describing how she contacted the mother of a harassing troll.
Contacting family members is not the only weapon in victims’ arsenal. There is a 9% chance your co-worker is an internet troll according to recent surveys. Accessing social media, like Facebook, for personal use while at work and misusing company resources while engaging in harassment is a violation of a company’s code of ethics or internet usage policy which can result in employment termination with just cause. Even an employee’s off-duty social media activity may reflect poorly on the business and ultimately cost them their job. The cyberbully employee is too much of a liability. In the United Kingdom, employers can be liable for the actions of their employees on social media that has been accessed using company equipment on company time. Since cyberbullying is a power game, knowing your harasser’s name and place of employment shifts the power to the victim.
If your harasser lives in England or Wales, there may be even more avenues of remedy available to you. In 2015, the Malicious Communications Act was updated with a new law, Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which quadrupled the then maximum six-month sentence for “crude and degrading” abuse. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling : “These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life. No-one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. This is a law to combat cruelty – and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob. We must send out a clear message – if you troll you risk being behind bars for two years.”
So what are the contexts are we talking about whereby doxing is a good thing? Watson already supplies one parameter: It is good to dox people who send messages that threaten rape, death, or harassing emails.
Few, if anyone, thought Curt Schilling’s doxing of the nine men who posted very vile comments about his daughter Gabby was a bad thing to do. Schilling, a former Red Sox pitcher and ESPN analyst, had tweeted the news that his 17-year old daughter had been accepted to a college and would be playing on their softball team. What transpired next in the comments section of Schilling’s Twitter account was nothing short of vile, evil wretchedness as nine men posted violent sexual comments and threats (using baseball bats as a sexual device) aimed at his daughter, Gabby. Schilling reacted like any dad would do in this kind of situation: He doxed the hell out of the two worst offenders and encouraged all other outraged readers to hunt down the rest of them. Here is an excerpt from Schilling’s blog post:
My daughter comes to me beyond upset. She didn’t do anything, she never said anything, yet she’s now receiving personal messages with guys saying things to her, well let’s just say I can’t repeat and I’m getting beyond angry thinking about it. Her boyfriend, a wicked good hockey player who has a fighting streak I absolutely love is going out of his mind to be let off his leash but unlike the athletes tweeting this stuff he understands the potential consequences of his actions and knows the time and place will hopefully come when he can make it right on his own terms.
These boys have yet to understand one of life’s most important lessons. In the real world you get held accountable for the things you say and if you are not careful that can mean some different things.
You want to know the scariest part? Some of their idiot friends, as I am sure some of you, are contacting me with “Dude lighten up, they’re just joking” and “Why are you saying things that might ruin someone’s life”?
A mistake is tweeting once and saying “damn, I’m an idiot” and taking it down. These guys? They’re making conscious choices to cyberbully an amazing and beautiful young woman on the internet, that none of them know by the way, because they don’t like her dad or they somehow think saying words you can teach a 5 year old is tough?
Both doxed men suffered severe reputational fallout: one was fired from his job with the New York Yankees, and the other was suspended from his community college. Schilling knew the remaining seven men’s identities:
“Worse yet, no less than seven of the clowns who sent vile or worse tweets are athletes playing college sports. I knew every name and school, sport and position, of every one of them in less than an hour. The ones that didn’t play sports were just as easy to locate.”
Schilling appears to have contacted those seven athletes’ coaches/schools as well:
“I found it rather funny at how quickly tone changed when I heard via e-mail from a few athletes who’d been suspended by their coaches,” Schilling wrote. “Gone was the tough guy tweeter, replaced by the ‘I’m so sorry’ apology used by those only sorry because they got caught.”
It should come as no surprise that I consider doxing children and/or threatening them with injury and death to be yet another parameter to define what “good doxing” would be.
Marco Arturo is an articulate 13-year-old kid on the autism spectrum. He self-made a video that was pro-vaccine and which debunked vaccines as the cause of autism. The reaction by the anti-vac people was harsh. Dr. David Gorski documents the actions of one “particularly odious antivaccine warrior”, a female blogger who uses the name “Levi Quackenboss”, who, under the cover of anonymity, attacked Marco. Marco himself documents this harassment in a Facebook post citing that his full name had been doxed, his parents’ full names, their address, his father’s place of employment, birth dates, photos of his family including his 1-year-old sister. “She is not just another troll, she is doing something that’s illegal to try to keep me silent.” What followed after Quackenboss’s blog post was a torrent of abuse and threats, including death threats, from anti-vaxxers who have written such things as:
“This kid should have been aborted.”
“This kid deserves autism.”
“I want to throat punch this kid.” (This would be a death threat since this action can kill someone.)
“Does anyone know who this kid’s parents are so we can get to them?”
“I want to punt Marco in the jugular.”
“I want to punch this kid in the face.”
Marco asks the obvious question, “Since when is it morally acceptable to dox a kid and his family?”
But notice that Marco says he knows Levi Quackenboss’ real name. He doesn’t reveal it but the implied threat to dox her is there. Within days of Marco’s Facebook post, Quackenboss deleted all five blog posts about him.
Curt Schilling’s advice applies: “In the real world you get held accountable for the things you say and if you are not careful that can mean some different things.”