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After their private data was released [by Russian operatives], American citizens who had given money to the Democratic Party were also exposed to harassment and threats. All of this mattered at the highest level of politics, since it affected one major political party and not the other. More fundamentally, it was a foretaste of what modern totalitarianism is like: no one can act in politics without fear, since anything done now can be revealed later, with personal consequences.
—Timothy Snyder[1]:232

Doxing (dropping docs or doc-dropping, sometimes also spelled doxxing) is the practice of revealing personally identifying information (such as names, addresses, places of employment, relatives, etc.) of people who use the Internet, typically in a highly public manner as a call to arms against the target. One of the sad realities of the Internet is that there is an inexhaustible number of creeps and assholes looking for targets to harass, typically of a specific political opinion, religious view, social class, race, gender,[2] sexual orientation, etc., etc. While commonly associated with malicious intent, especially towards aforementioned groups, it is very often seen as an act of "bringing justice" against people the doxxer and their self-righteous audience disagree with or perceive as being unjust.[3][4]

In the case of poorly done detective work or targets with common names, this can bring real pain to innocent people who aren't even related to the original situation.[5][6] In cases such as that, where the doxed person ends up being somebody completely unrelated to the intended target or where the dox is otherwise a failure, the dox may be called a faildox. While doxing can lead to simple trolling, such as calling in pizza orders, prank calling, and sending in Mormon missionaries, in more malicious cases doxing is a prelude to SWATing or worse.

Edge-case doxing[edit]

In the original definition, doxing requires hacking, or tricking someone into revealing information unwittingly. To a lesser degree, it also includes detective work piecing together information the target has revealed about themselves but which is obscure. It is also often considered doxing to widely publicize information the target has released themselves in the past, but which is for some reason currently not generally known or connected with a pseudonym. What constitutes doxing and what doesn't is currently hotly debated; often times along the lines of tribalism (we don't dox, but the others do!).


The perpetrator may look for something innocent as a profile picture of a social media link on a public account (YouTube, Reddit, etc.) and see if they can trace it back to something more identifiable, like a Facebook account. After finding the person's name and city, they can use websites like PeopleFinders and Whitepages to find more info, including home address, telephone numbers, and date of birth. If the person has legally changed their name, court records can be used to find former names. If the person got a traffic ticket, the perpetrator can find out what kind of car they drive and/or the license plate number. Finally, all the information is either published on a stalker forum or blog, or compiled into a list for mass distribution.

An example dox may look like this: ExampleAccount404's real name is Natalie Morgan Smith. She was born as Alan Edward Smith on 32 Octember, 1989. She works at No Fun Incorporated and went to school at the University of Education. Her telephone number is 555-867-5309 and she lives on 123 Fake Street in Nowhere, California. Her daughter Taylor Smith goes to Tweeny Bopper Middle School in Nowhere, where she is on the track team. Taylor can by found on Instagram under name taylorbaby_555.

Once the information is public, it can be used for evolution knows what. The perpetrator may call the employer and cost the victim their job. In more extreme cases, the information can be used for prank-calling the police and sending authorities to raid the victim's house.

Avoiding doxing[edit]

  • Set all personal social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to "private" or "friends only".
  • If possible, use a pseudonym instead of your legal or common name.
  • If you must use your real name, don't include your middle name.
  • Set your city to "friends only". If they have your name and city, they can find your address using White Pages.
  • Since profile pictures are typically public, exercise caution. Unless it's for a professional profile, use a drawing or edit your photo so you aren't recognizable by reverse image search. Snapchat filters are perfect for this. Also, never use the same profile picture for two sites.
  • Never post a picture of yourself on Reddit or any public forum.
  • Never give out any social media links on public forums.
  • Only use your birthday if you have to. Set it to private or friends only.
  • Take caution when uploading videos to YouTube – sometimes, it's better to be safe than to be famous.
  • Never accept a friend or follow request from someone you don't know.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]