‘Doxing’ is the practice of gathering and publishing personal or private information about someone on the internet. It comes from the word ‘document’/’dox’ and emerged as a revenge tactic in 1990s hacking culture.
Methods for obtaining information about the person being doxed ranges from using publicly searchable databases, to social media sites like Facebook, to hacking.
Doxing may be carried out for various reasons, including to aid in legal investigations or for use in business analysis, however in the context of cyberbullying doxing is used for the purposes of coercion, online shaming, extortion and even vigilante justice. It is often associated with use by online ‘mobs’ who are seeking to intimidate or threaten the victim by making them fear for their personal safety and security.
Doxing can be incredibly distressing and cause enormous amounts of harm to the victim.
Following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, vigilantes on Reddit wrongly identified a number of people as suspects and began a campaign of doxing. Among the misidentified bombing suspects was Sunil Tripathi, a student reported missing before the bombings took place. A body reported to be Sunil’s was found in Rhode Island’s Providence River on April 25, 2013 as reported by the Rhode Island Health Department. The cause of death was not immediately known, but the family later confirmed Tripathi’s death was a result of suicide; he had been depressed for some time and the doxing had led to huge international media speculation, which is thought very likely to have influenced his heartbreaking decision.