Billy, a regular internet commentator, is not an infrequent visitor to some unsavoury websites where he gets in arguments with the regulars. One day, he gets in a particularly heated debate with a very angry wingnut. Billy logs off after a few hours of fighting the good fight but he hasn't broken the connection between the digital and the physical worlds.
He wakes up to dozens of messages on his answering machine, accusing him of being a [CENSORED] and similar epithets. The abuse continues throughout the day, until Billy wonders if it had anything to with the previous evening’s conversation. Lo and behold, his opponent from the argument has figured out his not so secret identity and posted his name, phone number and even his address there. Billy’s been doxed.
The loss of online anonymity has often been treated with concern by netizens, and with good reason: it’s an effective way of threatening opponents, and is closely linked behaviour like Swatting (the process of convincing armed police that there is an emergency at the target’s address, prompting a potentially lethal encounter). Even when doxing has been used more 'ethically', it's proven to be an unreliable method of justice. The Anonymous leaks of alleged Klu Klux Klan members seems to have tarnished the reputations of a number of innocent individuals due to simple factual errors. Even even when the report gets the information right (such as the Daily Mail’s revelation that rape activist Roosh V lives with his mum), it can put innocent acquaintances and relatives at risk.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Negative Space)