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:
— Rebecca Watson @SF Sketchfest (@rebeccawatson) September 30, 2014
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.)