Revealing Personal Information Online, called ‘Doxing’, Is Used to Harass And Incite Violence against Opponents

Know Your Meme
Logan Smith, the man with the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist, began posting photos of ‘Unite the Right’ protesters in Charlottesville, VA, and gained over 300,000 followers in a single weekend, some of whom helped him publish the identities of the protestors, a practice called ‘doxing’.  One man was fired from his job, another disowned by his family, and a college professor was targeted by threats even though it was mistaken identity. [Doxing has been used by angry activists on both sides of controversial issues. There is nothing wrong with revealing the identities of people who are acting to influence public policy, but doxing is used, not as a means of enlightening the public, but to encourage social and economic harm or outright violence against one’s opponent. Bloggers depict their targets as evil people and publish everything needed to harass or injure them at home or place of employment. In days gone by, this incitement to do harm would have been punished by law enforcement.] –GEG

Last Saturday, Logan Smith, the man behind the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist, began posting photos of alleged white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia—and gained over 300,000 followers in a single weekend, some of whom helped him expose the identities of the protesters. One of the people Smith outed has since been fired from his job at a Berkeley, California, hot dog stand. Another, pictured screaming and holding a tiki torch, claims he’s been misrepresented as an “angry racist.”

Another was disowned by his family. Another, Kyle Quinn, was more than 1,000 miles away from Charlottesville at the time of the protest—a case of mistaken identity that brought a wave of threats and accusations of racism so large that Quinn felt unsafe in his home. Still another was James Alex Fields, Junior, who murdered anti-racist protestor Heather Heyer.

To some, this all makes Smith an internet hero. To others, he’s just the vile, destructive left wing doxer du jour. (Smith did not respond to request for comment, though he has discussed the campaign on NPR.)

So who’s got truth on their side? The internet has always been a swamp of ambiguity, especially where doxing is concerned. But as doxing continues to evolve as the preferred tactic of both far right and left wing internet factions, it’s important to take a hard look at what each side is trying to accomplish. While the two sides use different logic to justify their actions, the true result is the same and even cumulative—leading to an arms race of financially incentivized, shame-slinging vigilantes.

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