Why I’m Okay with Doxing

A few months ago, people were very angry at me for “doxing” Dr. Eliza Sutton, a prolific troll who uses pseudonyms online to harass feminists. “Doxing,” or “doxxing,” is the act of publicizing otherwise secret personal details of someone online. In the case of Sutton, she released her own details on a public blog post and then I linked to the story at Pharyngula, so I can’t be said to have doxed her in any way.

That said, if I had somehow obtained her real name and occupation from a private source, I doubt I would have hesitated to publicize it the moment she libeled me and PZ by stating that he got an STD at my conference.

Gasp! Horror! What good Internet citizen could possibly defend that most heinous of acts, the doxing?

Me. I seriously would not care.

I’m frankly tired of the black and white thinking that goes along with any discussion of doxing, as though an aggressive act is inherently evil regardless of who the target is and who the perpetrator is. Doxing is one of those acts that can be used for good or for ill. Like punching.

Remember Bart Sibrel? He’s the conspiracy theorist who doesn’t think humans ever reached the moon. One day, he confronted Buzz Aldrin as he was leaving a hotel. Aldrin asked him several times to leave him alone, but Sibrel followed him closely, calling him a liar and a thief, and asking him to repent for having said he walked on the moon. After a minute of this, he got in Aldrin’s face and called him a coward and a liar. Aldrin punched him in the face. Here’s the encounter:


I’m a nonviolent person. I think violence rarely solves any problems and more often only makes them worse. I’m anti-war. I’m anti-gun. And in many cases, I’m anti-punching. But god damn, did Sibrel ever deserve that punch.

Had it been the other way around – had Sibrel followed Aldrin around, harassing him for a minute, before Sibrel punched Aldrin in the face – I would vehemently condemn the act. Does this make me a punching hypocrite?

No: it makes me a person who understands that for some acts, the context matters in determining whether it’s a good or a bad thing.

So it is for doxing. The #gamergate bigots and losers who dug up and spread around Zoe Quinn’s home address and phone numbers were disgusting and wrong. They did it to frighten Quinn and give teeth to the people who were threatening her life, all because Quinn made a game they didn’t like and was accused of sleeping around by her ex-boyfriend.

Meanwhile, the GamerGate crowd over at Reddit are crying because Anita Sarkeesian occasionally publishes the harassing emails they send her, without blocking out their email or IP addresses. I do this, too: if someone sends me a threatening or harassing email, I see no reason to protect their identity.

I am, morally, 100% okay with this. Feminists owe these pieces of human garbage absolutely nothing. And while they go out of their way to investigate us, to find our addresses and publish them because we have the temerity to exist on the Internet, they can easily protect their own identity by simply not emailing us threats and harassment.

So, let it be known that I am a filthy doxer. If you harass women online, calling them slurs and threatening to rape and kill them, and if I find out your real name, I will publish it. If you tell me to kill myself on Twitter and I can link it to your Facebook, I will tell your uncle:

And if you follow me around calling me a liar and a coward, I will punch you in the face.

(Note to self: learn how to punch.)

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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  1. Profile photo of weatherwax
    December 12, 2014 at 3:20 pm —

    Here here! Well put.

  2. Profile photo of Kieron George
    December 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm —

    Does that even count as doxxing though, when they are giving you their private information?

    • Profile photo of Paul
      December 12, 2014 at 10:16 pm —

      That would be one question I have about this, from a purely definitional standpoint…

      Even then, though – say someone sent Rebecca a threatening message, and she dug up the person’s real name, is that wrong? I don’t think so.

  3. Profile photo of Giuliano Taverna
    December 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm —

    I’m pro punching when it comes to conspiracy theorists and sexist asshats. Seriously, I wouldn’t be able to resist if it was me in either situation. I’m not a violent person, but some people are just beyond consideration.

  4. Profile photo of braidycat
    December 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm —

    I’m pretty confused. What happened to Zoe Quinn was textbook doxxing, and you admit it’s horrific, but…the title says you’re okay with doxxing? I don’t think doxxing is a context-based thing like you assert. It’s done with malice, with the intention of frightening or causing the victim harm. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “good” doxxing, which leads me to believe that what Sarkeesian did was simply…not that. Maybe I’m just still reeling from the title — because I initially interpreted it as “I’m okay with people posting personal information about people they don’t like in order to scare them into hiding” — but I really, really don’t think “doxxing” is the right word in most of your scenarios (especially the Aldrin one…there’s a reason I didn’t touch that in my comment).

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      December 12, 2014 at 5:08 pm —

      You’ve defined “doxing” as something inherently bad, and pull a “no true scotsman” when someone points to an example of it being good. You’re welcome to define words in any way you wish, but I included a definition at the top of my post for a reason.

      Also, you appear to have not read very carefully (or at all) if you think that I was presenting the Aldrin example as a case of doxing.

    • Profile photo of Paul
      December 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm —

      If someone sends me a threatening email and I publish it, email and IP address uncovered, how is that wrong?

      I can’t imagine any way that this is wrong.

  5. Profile photo of Jack99
    December 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm —

    As you say, Glorious!

  6. Profile photo of James Trudel
    December 12, 2014 at 5:16 pm —

    I agree with everything except this part “I am, morally, 100% okay with this. Feminists owe these pieces of human garbage absolutely nothing. And while they go out of their way to investigate us, to find our addresses and publish them because we have the temerity to exist on the Internet, they can easily protect their own identity by simply not emailing us threats and harassment.”

    And I only disagree with that because I think you limit it too narrowly to just feminists. Anyone receiving harassing threats, be they feminists, LGBTQ, PoC, or allies, should feel free to highlight the harassers.

  7. Profile photo of Bear TheDad
    December 12, 2014 at 5:53 pm —

    Just beautiful. All of it. Thanks for posting the video, too. I hadn’t watched it for a while. It never gets old.

  8. Profile photo of Paul
    December 12, 2014 at 10:09 pm —

    Perfectly acceptable. Simple enough.

  9. Profile photo of fly44d
    December 13, 2014 at 12:33 am —

    Totally OK with this.

  10. Profile photo of ambious
    December 13, 2014 at 4:15 am —

    I usually agree with Rebecca, but here I have to protest my reservations on the subject. Sure, those people in this article might have had it coming, and nothing illegal was done, but I think that ‘doxxing’ is a tool that can very well be used for ‘evil’.
    I was a social media manager for a large franchise where I live, and I saw several attempts of people to take vengeance on employees of ours for personal or political disputes they’ve had with them. In one case the rallied an entire forum to flood our social media and emails with requests to fire that person – which eventually our stupid C.E.O. did just to reduce the attention (that employee, by the way, did nothing wrong. It was a political disagreement on another forum and he never identified as an employee of ours – it was revealed through ‘doxxing’ which in turn caused people to target him through his employer).
    What I’m saying is that it’s too easy to ruin somebody’s life with such techniques, and while some people might deserve it – the internet usually doesn’t care. The internet (outside of skeptic circles, perhaps) doesn’t investigate, the internet doesn’t care for the motives of the people instigating ‘social outrage’ as it were against individuals or the circumstances that led them to be doxxed. The internet see red, the internet thinks itself the protector of all that is right and just – and oftentimes with GOOD intentions, the internet become a mob of angry villagers with immense power that can often be used against the undeserving.
    The bottom line is, I guess – be careful who you rally against. We’re all skeptics here, we all know to take a step back and look at the facts and investigate things and decide for our own, but even we sometimes succumb to anger and lose our senses. I’m just saying – the concept of ‘doxxing’, while it can be used for good, can also be used for malicious purposes, so be careful who you stand behind and against, and don’t just “be Okay with doxxing” – it’s a rash and extreme action. Be skeptical.

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