Fact or Fiction: Doxing Someone Can Get You Arrested.

This is a fact!

Doxing can refer to a broad array of conduct, but its essence is publishing private information about a person, such as home address, employment location, cell phone numbers, etc, usually out of a sense of revenge or social justice. The term comes from the abbreviation “docs” (for “documents”) and refers to compiling and releasing a dossier of personal information on someone.

Image Source: abcnews.com

Usually doxing is done so that the target suffers negative consequences ranging from from public shame or being fired from a job to suffering a physical attack from an angry member of the public. For example, one Twitter user went on a mission to dox those who attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. One of his targets was fired from his job. Another was disowned by his family.

In the early days of the Internet in the 1990s, anti-abortion activists published abortion providers’ home addresses, phone numbers, and photographs, and posted them as a hit list. The website included blood-dripping graphics, celebrated providers’ deaths and incited others to kill or injure the remaining providers on the list. Between 1993 and 2016, eight abortion providers were killed by anti-abortion terrorists.

Image Source: abortion.ws

Most recently, a House of Representatives intern was arrested this week for publishing private information about South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. Information including home addresses, private cell phone numbers and more was reportedly added to the Senators’ Wikipedia pages.

The intern has initially been charged with 18 USC § 119 Making Public Restricted Personal Information. However, this federal law only applies to narrow categories of individuals, including:

  • any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency in any branch of the United States Government (including any member of the uniformed services);
  • jurors, witnesses, or other officer in or of, any court;
  • informants or witnesses in a Federal criminal investigation or prosecution;
  • a State or local officer or employee whose restricted personal information is made publicly available because of the participation in, or assistance provided to, a Federal criminal investigation by that officer or employee;

However, if you don’t fall into one of the above categories, there is no federal  law that criminalizes all of the conduct that may be called doxing, such as publishing someone’s contact information. However, there is a federal law against stalking that may apply to many doxing incidents. 18 U.S. Code § 2261A provides:

“Whoever—

(2) with the intent to kill, injure, harass, intimidate, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person, uses the mail, any interactive computer service or electronic communication service or electronic communication system of interstate commerce, or any other facility of interstate or foreign commerce to engage in a course of conduct that
(A) places that person in reasonable fear of the death of or serious bodily injury to a person …; or
(B) causes, attempts to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to a person …

shall be punished as provided in section 2261(b) of this title.”

Image Source: slate.com

Most victims of doxing should also look to their state law. Much of the conduct that is considered “doxing” may fall under multiple state laws relating to cyber stalking, stalking, harassment, threats, or extortion (e.g., threatening to make information public if money is not paid). A doxer can also be charged if he illegally obtained the data about his victim, such as from protected government databases.

If government authorities are not willing to pursue prosecution, victims of doxing always have the option of filing a civil suit if they can locate the doxer, which can be extremely difficult. What is a civil suit again? In the US, the most common example of a civil suit is the lawsuit that is filed after a car accident, when the injured party believes they were effected by the negligence or malice of another. Successful civil suits usually result in the award of compensatory damages, and possibly punitive damages. A civil suit can be filed even if no crime has been committed.

What do you think? Should Congress enact a federal law that addresses doxing? Or should there be a right to release public information about other people with the intent to humiliate or cause financial loss or even bodily harm via third parties?

12 comments on “Fact or Fiction: Doxing Someone Can Get You Arrested.

  1. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    jay tea on

    I had a guy find out where I work for a school on youtube , a bunch of folks that call themselves the Troll Of The Round Table. They contacted the school and told them all kinds of horrible things about me . My daughter in 3 grade also goes to this school. It is summer now and I am horrified what kind of things they think when school starts up again in sept. This doxxer even went on another youtube channel bragging about it. He of course uses an anonymous name Jeremy Hopper and the the avatar from the guy from the Matrix Movie. He also claims to work for the DOD and has special skills and tools that nobody else has.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      Anton Y. Moose on

      if im not mistaken, impersonating a government official is a felony, you may be able to have the prosecuted, take screenshots of everything

      Reply
  2. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Susan Pearson on

    So what about Senator Joaquin Castro doxing all the information and names of Trump donors in San Antonio? Protestors are already harassing people on their private property.

    Reply
    • Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
      RG on

      Cry about it, Susan.
      That’s not doxxing. That’s publicly available information.
      They deserve to be shamed for their shameful actions.

      Reply
  3. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Dave Melone on

    IOn the subject of doxxing, or other organized efforts to financially distress or ruin a private individual through social media, blogging or other means, I find no difference in the intent of these activities than if a group donned balaclavas and wielded clubs to personally injure someone. Both acts are malicious and carried out with the full intent to injure someone. Both acts should be addressed through both the criminal code to mete out justice and punishment of the perpetrators and common law, civil court should address compensation and damages to the victim. Without these avenues, the victim will likely have to resort to their own form of retribution and without financial power, the victim might resort to physical force to fight back.

    Reply
  4. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Anon on

    Congress definitely needs to enact a federal law that not only addresses doxxing, but also bans doxxing, because doxxing is illegal and bad. We don’t care if some people don’t like each other, it is still illegal to dox someone and anyone who does such acts should go to prison.

    Reply
  5. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Fred C. Dobbs on

    Are voluntary public statements exempt from “doxxing” laws? For example:

    a) Klark K. Klan has a public social media profile and lists his place of employment.

    b) Klark K. Klan makes racist statements, threats of violence, incites murder, etc.

    c) Someone witnesses Klark K. Klan’s public statements and informs his employer or reposts the voluntary statements elsewhere.

    How would a, b, and c constitute doxxing when there is no violation of privacy, when racist or violent individuals made those statements voluntarily?

    Reply
  6. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Red on

    People who do such things like doxing are cowards. They go to social media and post things on other outlets to incite a reaction because they don’t have the gumption to confront it themselves. They are deserving of jail time. If you have a problem with someone, learn to have a serious and respectful conversation with that person. Going after them in a passive-aggressive manner solves nothing.

    Reply
  7. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    A. Scott on

    My position on this is that doxxing usually doesn’t need to be treated distinctly- because it will invariably fall as a criminal conspiracy to commit a violent crime. (e.g. someone says here’s x’s info- go do y to x – is a criminal conspiracy where y is concerned, because posting the info is both an “agreement” to do y AND is a substantial act in furtherance of y.) This is where prosecutors need to wield the heft of conspiracy charges against these sorts of actors- especially since conspiracy can get much more jail time than the principal, in some cases even bringing the death penalty into play.

    Reply
  8. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    rob on

    Very interesting conversation. The fact that you referred to releasing “public information” implies that the information has already been released. I would lean towards the use of information for illegal activity is the problem, not the actual release. Otherwise, would not Google be culpable for making all my public information more readily accessible if someone were to use it?

    Reply
  9. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Michael Pierce on

    Is it doxing if its the government that’s doing it, especially if it’s under a guise that has been proven to be inaccurate? What if the government doxes an entire segment of the population with the result of causing or attempting to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress to a person?
    What if this doxing caused or was proven to cause any person to be in reasonable fear of death or of serious bodily injury?
    What if the government knew this doxing would be questioned so this same government proclaims this action to be a civil regulatory scheme not unlike that of renewing ones driver’s license?
    What if the general population upon discovering the identity of said segment of the population not only approved but strongly supported this civil regulatory scheme?

    What we allow the government to do to one, we demand the government do to us.

    Thank you for your time.

    Reply
  10. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    omo on

    ***Question for attorneys out there *** In California, regarding doxing, does CCPA 1798.105 – provide a workaround to social media’s Section 230 immunities? As of 3/11/21, Instagram and Twitter have been broadcasting my non-public phone number and street for 8+ months posted by a gang member. Posts are still live, collectively received 2 million + views, and the threats of violence have displaced me from my house 8 months and counting. I sent notarized certified letters requesting Instagram & Twitter remove my phone number and street from their broadcasts to their heads of legal and their CEOs. CA law gives them 45 days to comply according to CCPA subsection 1798.130 and the post office confirms all received these letters. I think there’s a case here. What do you attorneys think? An LAPD investigator is attached as well regarding the threats of violence. Anyone want to take it up, please reply! There’s a proper legal paper trail and believe social media may be forced some accountability here for negligence of privacy laws and damages are meaningful and documented. Some public notariety in this case possible too. Please post if you can help! Thanks all!

    Reply

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