Doxing, or the practice of posting someone’s identifying personal details on the internet, is becoming a popular form of online retribution. In the past year or two, there have been several examples of social media users doxing everyone from white supremacist to female journalists and even the victims of sexual abuse. Doxing someone may seem like a harmless act of reprisal, but it can have serious consequences–for both victim and perpetrator.
Because doxing is a fairly new tactic, its legal repercussions may seem murky. Though ethically questionable, doxing is usually legal. Technically, it is perfectly within one’s legal rights to find someone’s publicly available information and post it online. Still, there are some situations in which doxing can cross the boundary and become a criminal act.
Depending on the specifics of the case, doxing may be considered harassment, intimidation, invasion of privacy or even assault. If the information posted online was obtained illegally–for example, through hacking–there could be criminal charges in store for whoever obtained and revealed it. The intent of the doxer may also come into play. Doxing that is meant to intimidate, threaten, harass or lead to threats against someone could lead to legal trouble. In addition, if someone’s personal details are obtained through a private rather than public source, the victim could have ground to file a lawsuit for invasion of privacy.
The consequences of doxing
Internet users who dox other people sometimes fail to consider the long-term consequences of this action. It can seriously damage the lives of both doxer and doxed. Victims of doxing often experience fear, humiliation and other emotional trauma. They may live in fear of someone finding their personal information online and using it to stalk, rob or even physically attack them. Some victims who are doxed choose to pursue action against the offender in the form of civil suits; others may contact the authorities in an attempt to press criminal charges. If this happens, doxers would be wise to contact an attorney. And, fortunately, most attorneys’ information is easily readily available online.