“Doxxing Is Always Bad, Except When It’s Not”: Your Morality Is A Bludgeon

by Riley H on April 10th, 2015

Because context is a thing. 

Trigger Warning/Content Notice: Discussion of extreme online abuse, swatting, death and rape threats, stalking and attempted murder/murder.

I’m sure several people at this point are thinking to themselves…morality? A bludgeon? How could morals hurt people? Aren’t morals what keep us all from destroying each other in fits of rage?

That’s true, but immoral behavior still happens. I know you’ve heard of a certain “movement” who, despite a stated goal of solving problems in journalism, instead just spends a lot of time violently assaulting women online.

Doxxing is a tactic used by online hate groups to destroy more than just a person’s online presence, but their job, their house and personal property, their family and friends, their bodily safety. In extreme cases, the local cops are involved through swatting.

Swatting is finally being recognized as a crime, but the actions that lead to it are ignored. Victims still deal with threats of murder or rape. They receive images of their houses in their inboxes, harassing or “warning” messages to family and friends, and in some cases, locals are encouraged to approach that person for real-life confrontation.

Recently, victims have been retaliating in kind against those who target them for abuse. Why go that far? Simply put, because nothing else works. Victims don’t usually seek to ruin anyone. They seek to make the violence stop. The ability to open their emails or check phone messages without verbal or textual assaults. The freedom to speak with friends openly without worrying they will be next. The ability to sleep at night. To pay their bills and eat. To live a life free from abuse by a faceless, nameless crowd that the authorities don’t care enough about to track down.

They seek survival.

Of course, where oppressed people seek to live, people who have never faced that trauma seek to remove all means of self-defense.

Some feel that doxxing for good is “just as bad as the original use for doxxing”.

I have mixed feelings about “dox blogs”, but I don’t about individuals using doxxing as a tool to stop abuse, despite campaigns to conflate the two.

Trying to survive by using a last-resort measure against an attacker who has proven they will not stop by other means after years of abuse? That’s called defending yourself. Authorities have shown just how much they care (hint: not much); leaving victims few options save uprooting online, and in some cases in real life as well.

Some claim that a target who defends against their abuser by doxxing them doesn’t self-reflect…that they lack integrity.

But what is integrity when you are being consistently abused and tortured in your online space, leaving lasting effects on your mental health and psyche?

Then there are those who will try to claim that doxxing for the cause is “ruining people’s lives” over a “disagreement”.

But oppression is not a disagreement.

Bigots have long had control of media and all forms of expression that could make it out to a reasonably sized audience. For once, with the creation of social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr, people are able to fight back with unprecedented and unexpected effects. People are actually being forced to suffer the consequences of violent actions, even if in small (minute, really) numbers.

But naturally, tactics that are ignored when online trolls use them are deemed brutal weapons when in the hands of marginalized people trying to defend themselves. Hypocritical campaigns have risen that doxx stated “blog enemies” while claiming it’s the worst thing one can possibly do… in the same breath. After years of ignoring violence, conveniently we’ve all found our morals just in time to police victims’ responses to increasing and ongoing abuse online.

Your morality is a bludgeon, and you’re gonna kill somebody if you keep swinging it around.

Victims are told to dismiss trolls because “it’s just the internet”, but we demand people trying to enjoy their corner of the blogosphere live up to standards in a contract they never signed or even got to read.

How is that any different from what online hate groups do, painting everyone fighting for oppressed people’s rights with the “SJ” brush, then attacking because they ignored poorly-made strawman arguments and material falsehoods?

It isn’t.

Your morality is a bludgeon, and you are going to kill someone with it.

The counterargument to this is that doxxing for good has been used to hurt innocent bystanders. It has, that’s true. And so has every single concept ever used by oppressed people to defend themselves.

When oppressed groups online insisted that members of privileged groups not speak for them, what did online hate groups do? They simply pretended to be members of marginalized groups, or made entire Fake Oppressed Person blogs. Various hate sites have even tried to make structured “invasions” of marginalized spaces by imitating oppressed people and encouraging in-fighting. Privilege discourse has been fought with cries of “you don’t know what it’s like to be a cishetero white man!” Yet practices calling out these abuses and identifying the perpetrators are suddenly “immoral”.

These patterns have occurred historically as well. When the Black Panthers bought many guns as a way of fighting white supremacy, suddenly gun control became important, only to be flipped back around now that the Panthers have disbanded. Black people weren’t even allowed to use welfare for most of its existence, but once they did, became the source of Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” stereotype of Black mothers.

No matter what we come up with to self-defend, people will use it against us to varying degrees of success, usually determined by how close a complainant is to a white cishetero man. (For example, how many of you cared about doxxing 5 years ago, when Black women and femmes were the prime target? Yeah.)

In the end, this counter-argument falls flat when the only doxxings you’ve bothered to read about targeted well-off white women in tech who had platforms they could leverage, doing what some call “being good victims”. It doesn’t do a damn thing for access-less Black and indigenous women struggling to make ends meet, using the internet for a much-needed break from life and having no support in addition to having to deal with the usual daily micro and macro aggressions.

Articles have been written about those mistakenly doxxed using the discourse of “justice” and “for the greater good”. But how many articles have you seen written about the doxxed Black women and femmes on whom these tactics were practiced and perfected?

My advice? Mind your damn business. You wouldn’t ever dox, no matter what? Great! Last I checked, no other victim has signed some legally binding contract with you to uphold your version of morality. You’d allow yourself to be chased from your home and job, slung deep into poverty for “the cause”? Awesome! Have fun doing that by yourself, because no one should ever be shamed for choosing life over your shaky idea of integrity.

And if you think they should, you’re an asshole. And you’re probably gonna get someone killed.

The only person beholden to your morality is you.