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To dox, or not to dox

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Dox, verb: to search for and publish private or identifying information about a particular individual on the Internet, typically with malicious intent

The term is from the slang word “docs,” for “documents.” It’s said to have been around since the 1990s and may be related to the doxc file extension from Microsoft. Doxing has been on the upswing in recent years. Since Charlottesville, the phenomenon (if not the word) has entered the public consciousness, as anti-fascists have posted photos of white supremacists who didn’t bother masking themselves—with the result that those racists were fired from their jobs, or otherwise shamed and ostracized, even by their own families.

Hackers and online vigilantes routinely dox both public and private figures,” says the website dictionary.com. The practice is, predictably, controversial: there have been cases where individuals were misidentified, leading to horrible consequences, but more commonly, white supremacists who are doxed find themselves forced to defend their actions. That was the case with Peter Cvjetanovic, who justified himself on Twitter with the awkward explanation, “White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.”

Right. And Hitler wasn’t an anti-semite, he just wanted to preserve good old German culture!

As doxing increases in frequency, white supremacists “are terrified,” reports the feminist website, broadly.vice.com. Once a neo-nazi has been doxed, “It’s hard to get a job, hard to make a living, hard to have a normal social life when all your friends and family know you believe in ethnic cleansing,” says the Southern Poverty Law Center. Reports of doxed white nationalists being fired are rampant; the New York Post reported that “white supremacists who rallied…are beginning to see consequences…” including “losing jobs [and] web hosting platforms.” The latter is a reference to the arch-white nationalist and racist website, Daily Stormer, which was banned from GoDaddy, Cloudflare and Google after Charlottesville.

The argument that doxing is repression of free speech is related to the ongoing debate about so-called “free speech” rallies at U.S. campuses, especially the University of California at Berkeley. Should everyone have the right to express himself, no matter how hateful, incendiary or untrue the statements are? To me, the answer is a clear “No.” But even if you believe differently, and think that neo-nazis should be accorded the right to free speech, doxers also have the right to “out” neo-nazis in the most public ways possible. If a white supremacist shows up at a hate rally without covering her face, she has ceded any expectation of privacy. I suppose the neo-nazis might see being unmasked as courageous, but they should not complain when they find their faces smeared all over Twitter or Facebook, and then get a pink slip from their employer. On the other hand, nobody ever got fired for peacefully protesting white supremacy. There is a difference; the two are not equal. Neo-nazi speech should be discouraged, and those who engage in it must and will face the consequences of their actions. It’s not “malicious” to publicly out a white supremacist; it’s patriotic.

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