Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Note about Doxxing

The latest online drama related to the "FreeThoughtBlogs" gang is just who is guilty of more "doxxing".

To "dox" someone is to reveal personal information about someone online that they would not want revealed. The definition of personal information depends on the context of the situation. Sometimes it's information that is obviously damaging, like a credit card or social security number. Often it's something seemingly simple, like a full name or a phone number.

Typically doxxing is done so anonymous trolls can prank or intimidate the victim in a number of ways. Ordering unwanted pizza, making fake appointments, leaving bizarre voice mail messages.

The "FreeThoughtBlogs" crowd like to cast themselves as the victims in all this, but really it's a game of give and take.

Here's some short version of the story that is purposefully missing a lot of detail -

Once upon a time, a certain FreeThoughtBlogger (or was it FTB fan?) took it upon himself to identify the location of a "harasser". Presumably the information was to be used to embarrass the "harasser" in front of his employers. Remember, the FreeThoughtBloggers love to see "misogynists" get the axe.

It turned out to be the address of the "harasser"'s ex-wife.

Then, the address of a well known FTBer was copy & pasted to the "SlymePit" forum. It may or may not have been public information, however it was probably disconcerting to see it there.

Fast forward a bit, PZ Myers ended up with booked test drive appointments with car dealerships in his area.  One can imagine this is tremendously annoying.

Some time later, (or perhaps before?) a Twitter user and YouTuber pointed out to one of the FTB crowd that he/she essentially doxxed himself/herself by sharing easily identifiable location data. The video was made to show the FTB crowd that their behavior doesn't necessarily jive with their statements about their situation.

Closer to the present, an FTBer posted some criticism she received from a protected Twitter account. Protected Twitter accounts are usually a signal that the Twitter user generally does not wish their thoughts to immediately be broadcast as wide as Twitter would typically allow. The user asked for the removal of the content from FreeThoughtBlogs.

This was followed up by FTBers publicly attempting to connect the dots between people posting with real names and their "sock puppet" accounts with fake names. By any measure, this is doxxing - the result is the same.

The merry go round continues:
  1. Somebody says something on the internet
  2. Somebody is incredibly pissed off about it
  3. Some amateur sleuthing happens to find out the motivations, weaknesses and contradictions the people involved may have
  4. This information is then used to say something on the internet, and then we're back at the beginning
In this rotation, the "something" said may be doxxing, or lead to doxxing. 

If you write detailed blog posts about specific people and events, you will eventually "dox" someone.

They might be someone you abhor. But it may be just as likely to be a friend. It is on you to think about how you respond to each incident and take the appropriate course of action.

The fingerpointing and harassment claims are incredibly tiresome.

You have several choices:
  1. Stick to your guns and tell everyone "welcome to being internet famous, deal with it!"
  2. Make it clear that it's purely a revenge play to align for previous slights by your opponents
  3. Redact the information as appropriate
Save everyone a lot of headaches and stop pretending that one can make themselves immune from being in the wrong when it comes to information sharing.

Perhaps one reasonable course of action is to take the information down so long as cooler heads prevail.

This leads us to the conclusion that all content on this blog is liable to be deleted or redacted.

This content does not exist to "dox" or "Google bomb" people. There is no point for this to be an extra-judicial offender registry for people making bad arguments on the internet.

The point is to highlight problems with bad reasoning.

Unrepentant nonsense factories will be documented thoroughly. This is a public service.

It is however important to discriminate between the people who believe nonsense in error and those that have built a career in it.

The former may be disappointed to see a strange blog show up beside their resume in a web search.

The latter are thrilled by manufactured controversy.

No comments:

Post a Comment