Can You Get into Trouble for Doxxing Someone?

By Logan Quirk

Myth or truth: doxxing someone else can get you arrested? This is definitely a cold hard truth. Doxxing a person will land you in jail, so you better be careful and be on your best behavior. For all you know, you could be doxxing someone without knowing about it. The scariest things are ignorance of rules, regulations, and laws that will not excuse you in the eyes of justice. Thus, it is best to be informed to keep yourself from making such a terrible mistake that can give you a record that will last forever. In the same token, it is important to know when you’ve been doxxed, so you can file for compensatory damages.

What is Doxxing?

According to the attorneys at the Quirk Law Group, the act of doxxing someone actually pertains to a wide range of conduct. At the crux of this is publishing private information about the person. This may include someone’s complete name, home address, employer, employer address, phone numbers, and more as a form of vengeance. There is ill will involved because you want the person to be embarrassed. Even if your purpose is to gain social justice, they still consider unethical, and in some cases, it can be punishable by law.

The term doxxing is an actual abbreviated or a shortened version of the word document, which is often called docs. Hence, it becomes dox or doxxing. This involves a compilation of someone’s documents or dossier of private information and then releasing it for public consumption without the person’s consent. It is a show of absolute power, and at times, it can even feel like it is blackmail because there is always malice involved.

Doxxing Sounds Like Journalism, but is It the Same?

Some may argue that this is very confusing because journalism is, in essence, doing the same thing and publishing loads of information. Their job entails revealing facts and information about people and current events. In fact, may photographers frequently take pics of celebrities when they are engaged in private activities. Here are some differences between you and journalists, so you can’t use their profession as an excuse to doxx someone who annoys you.

Media professionals have been trained unlike doxxers

The line between doxxing and journalism may be thin, but for the record, journalism is not doxxing because they train media professionals who engage in the industry to determine what is newsworthy and what is not. On top of that, media professionals understand that the rules of privacy that govern a normal person does not translate to public personalities like celebrities and politicians who purposely put themselves in the public spotlight.

Reporters have bylines and accountability unlike most doxxers who remain anonymous

Most of all, reporters and journalists have bylines, unlike most doxxers who are typically anonymous. The identity of reporters put them in a more dangerous position because they can be held accountable for what they release. Everything that they write and show the world have ethical, legal, and financial repercussions.

Journalists show their intent, but doxxers don’t

Media professionals who are active in journalism have shown their intention to the world and practice their professions openly, whereas doxxers could be about anyone. There is a vast difference between the two and the quality of content and media materials they produce.

Further Clarification on the Scope of Doxxing

The scope of doxxing may still be confusing to most people because in this day and age of the information superhighway, where tech makes it possible to Google someone, you and anyone else are bound to have pieces of data about your personal life stored within the realm of the web. It is a given knowledge there will be some hits on search engines about you and your life as you leave a digital footprint behind each time you use the internet.

Naturally public information

Beyond your own social media posts, online gaming encounters, and the stuff you comment on in online forums, groups, or discussion boards, there will be public records of the properties you own, your voter registration details, or any cases concerning you. Don’t forget that credit-rating agencies also have collated information about your financial affairs and have these encoded in their massive databases.

If you take nuggets of this information or even small pieces of data, then your act is benign or non-threatening. It may be visible online where you send your kid to school, what your last comment was on a hot topic, or who you filed a personal injury case against. You will be amazed that many people know these things about you, even random strangers.

Gathering nuggets of information and publishing without consent

This information is harmless unless someone digs deep, gathers all these pieces of data, and publishes them online. If you do that to someone, then you are in a lot of trouble. If someone does this to you, then you can sue them. This act is doxxing because gathering docs or documents on a person and revealing them is a crime punishable by law. If you or anyone you know is a victim of doxxing or has been accused of doxxing, it is critical to contact a reputable law firm like the Quirk Law Group to protect your interests.

When Did Doxxing Begin?

Doxxing may sound like a very modern term, but in reality, it is not. In fact, this act pre-dates the internet. People in the past have long exerted effort to discover information about others and then reveal what they know when they are up to no good. The practice of doxxing has not always been digital and online.

Early 1990s non-digital doxxing

To illustrate, Lord Herman Ouseley who is a campaigner in the UK about a hot topic dealing with race, used to get endless phone calls at midnight even in the 1990s. This is a result of the actions of far-right activists who posted his private home number on numerous cards and left them in public loos all over London. These hooligans wanted to get revenge on him by making it difficult and uncomfortable for the Lord to be in his own home.

Today’s social media doxxing

Now, it is a lot easier to reveal information because of the social media platform. It is easy to rant on Facebook or Twitter when you become annoyed with someone. It is also so much faster to research information on others; all it takes is a flick of a finger with a simple Google search. As a result, some people who are on the quest for justice or revenge when they post their rants may not be even aware that what they are engaging in online is doxxing.

Doxxing is not only for hackers

Contrary to popular belief, it is not only hackers who doxx so they can gather your financial information and scam you. If you think it’s only online thieves who are out to get you, then think again because even normal individuals can doxx.

Some news organizations have engaged in doxxing

Many studies also indicate that certain news organizations and media sites have doxxed their visitors who commented on controversial articles. Furthermore, in online groups and forums, where people are usually anonymous, those who have ill-intent become aggressive and intentionally violate someone’s right to privacy to fish for their info. And for many private citizens out there, what befalls them after doxxing has been extremely dangerous.

doxxing graphic

The Ill Effects of Doxxing a Person, Especially a Private Individual

The primary purpose of doxxing is to avenge a cause, so the target or the victim  suffers numerous negative consequences. The aftereffects of doxxing can even be extremely dangerous as the impact can spread not only to the victim but the effect can also trickle down to their loved ones.

Public Shaming Leads to Job Loss

Typically, the target suffers an adverse impact on his or her life, the top one being public shame. The negative result of this nasty public revelation is being fired from your job or suffering a rough physical attack from angry members of the public who work on a mob mentality and quickly judge you based on whatever is posted.

Can Result in Identity Theft

Pranksters who decide to doxx you and leave your personal information for public consumption can predispose you to identity theft. In the past, even former First Lady Michelle Obama had her SSN, credit report, and past phone numbers listed online. Imagine if it were you? Scammers will certainly have a field day stealing your identity and charging your account with huge amounts of debt.

Have Led to Being Disowned and a Case of Mistaken Identity

A perfect example is a Twitter user called @YesYoureRacists, who had made it his mission to dox those who attended the rally called Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia, and tagged them as white supremacists. They fired one of the people he targeted for being racist. On top of that, another attendee whose identity they revealed, his family disowned him. Unfortunately, one of the individuals doxxed was a case of mistaken identity, and this poor person suffered in the hands of an angry mob for an alleged discriminatory act that he never committed.

Resulting in Physical Injuries and Death After Doxxing

The effects can be so massive that some people kill because of doxxing. In the early days of the internet, anti-abortion activists published several abortion providers’ names, pictures, home addresses, and phone numbers. They posted this information on a site hit list. This site also posted bloody graphics of infants along with the pictures of these providers. This incited a mass outcry, and as a result, some individuals mauled these providers, and anti-abortion extremists killed eight abortion providers on the list.

Being Charged with a Crime

Most recently, they arrested an intern in the House of Representatives for publishing private information about Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. The intern leaked the information on their home address, private mobile numbers, and more, which they added to both Senators’ Wikipedia pages.

They initially charged the errant intern with the federal law called 18 USC § 119 with a title called Making Public Restricted Personal Information. However, this particular law only applies to a narrow set of individuals, including:

  • Any officer or employee of the US or any agency in any branch of the US Government, including uniformed personnel
  • Jurors, witnesses, or any other officers of the court
  • Informants and witnesses of a federal prosecution or crime investigation
  • A state or local officer and/or employee whose personal information was made public because of participation or assistance offered to a federal issue.

Doxxing a government employee falls under the Federal Conspiracy Law and is considered a federal offense. However, if you don’t fall into the above categories, federal stalking laws may apply to doxxing incidents under the 18 U.S. Code §  2261A.

What to Do if You are a Doxxing Victim

If you happen to be a victim of doxxing, you should look into your state laws because much of the conduct that falls under the realm of doxxing fall under different state laws that deal with plain stalking, cyberstalking , harassment, threats, or extortion.

As an example, when someone threatens to make your information public if you do not pay money, this is considered doxxing. Another case is when a doxxer illegally gathered information about you in protected government databases. You can charge the doxxer with a crime.

If the prosecutor doesn’t take your doxxing case seriously because it doesn’t fall within the bounds of US codes, rules, regulations, and laws, you as the victim can always choose to file a civil lawsuit against the individual if you know how to trace or where to find this person.

A civil lawsuit can still be filed and handled by your attorney, even if there is no crime involved. All it takes is for you, the injured party, to show that there is malice. If you can win a civil lawsuit against a doxxer who is harassing you, you can claim for compensatory and punitive damages for the stress this whole incident has caused you.

To get the best possible results, it is vital to get in touch with a qualified legal team. You will need someone with vast knowledge and years of experience handling cases like the Quirk Law Group. Qualified attorneys who belong to this highly respected law firm will fight for your rights and get you the fair compensation you deserve.

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