Journalism is not doxxing
“Doxxing” is the practice of piecing together personal information culled from someone’s publicly available online profiles and comments in order to figure out their real life identity. Many people are careless about maintaining their anonymity and will use the same screennames and email addresses everywhere. That makes it easy to cross-reference details they leave on one website with their Facebook or Twitter accounts and find names, phone numbers and even addresses. Many times, the determined doxxer doesn’t even have to trace your IP address or hack into your accounts. You might inadvertently be leaving traces of your real life identity all over the place.
The intention behind doxxing is generally malicious. It’s to connect people’s online activities to their offline lives and expose them to harassment. Doxxing is also problematic because it’s easy to make a mistake and identify the wrong person.
Doxxing is a particularly big problem for already vulnerable groups, like women and girls, closeted gender/sexual minorities, and people with persecuted religious or political beliefs. Doxxing can get those people stalked, harassed, injured, imprisoned, or even killed. Being able to use your real name online without worrying about negative repercussions is a privilege many people don’t have.
Don’t want to get doxxed?
- Use a unique screenname for every website you regularly use.
- Don’t link your main email address to any of them.
- Don’t link your Facebook profile to any of them.
- Make sure your passwords are all strong and that your FB privacy settings are set up the way you want them.
- There are some creeps out there who steal pictures from Facebook and Photobucket. Think hard about any pictures you put online.
- If you’re really paranoid, you can salt your blog entries, Twitter feed, or comment history with false personal information. “Man, I sure do love being a 6’2 Canadian tutu manufacturer”….(um, less obviously fake than that.)
That said, what Adrian Chen did was journalism. He did not “doxx” Violentacrez—he wrote an article about him and a pretty even-handed one at that. He interviewed the subject and the subjects’ acquaintances. He gathered information from publicly available sources.
The intention was not to intimidate or harass Michael Brutsch, but to inform the public about the shady side of a very popular website. The article also raised important questions about free speech, privacy, anonymity, and personal responsibility online. Chen also attached his name and reputation to the article—another reason why it is journalism, not doxxing.
So describing the Chen piece on Michael Brutsch as “doxxing” (as many seem to be doing) is inaccurate. The term subtly suggests that Chen was setting Brutsch up to be attacked by a mob with pitchforks. Will Brutsch face negative social consequences for his online activities? Probably. Will he be jailed or lynched? Given that he’s a white man living in a country where the rule of law is strong, I strongly doubt it.
Brutsch is not the victim here. He willingly posted disgusting and inflammatory things online for kicks. He’s not entitled to any pity or sympathy. He was a shitty person for years and it’s finally coming back to bite him in the ass. I find it more pathetic than sad that Brutsch is figuring out at the age of 49 that there are limits even to white/straight/male/cis privilege.
You want to know who the real victims are? All those girls whose Facebook pictures he stole and posted on Reddit for pedophiles to download (including this 14-year-old). All those girls and women who were forced to become porn stars without their knowledge or consent. The families of the dead children (r/deadjailbait) whose pictures he posted online to shock and titillate. The minorities (r/n*ggerjailbait, r/Jewmerica), rape victims (r/rapebait), and violence victims (r/chokeabitch) whose pain he exploited for lulz. Michael Brutsch didn’t give a shit about them, so why should we give a shit about him?
Do you know what upvotes are called on Reddit?
Violentacrez apparently had tens of thousands of karma points by the time he deleted his profile. But Michael Brutsch didn’t understand what karma truly is until now.
Note the irony of how a privileged section of Reddit demands that other people respecttheirrights, while gleefully trampling on the rights of others.
That being said, I have problems with the Anonymity / Real Name dichotomy brought up by the OP. It’s not as simple as that, of course — note how Predditor was using almost similar methods to out assholes and creepers, while remaining anonymous. That’s not journalism either, and yes, itis doxxing.
But I have no problems with it.