Let’s take a moment to discuss the practice of doxing.
“Doxing” is a legal term that means exactly what it sounds like: revealing “documents,” or personal information, about a person–known as “restricted personal information.” This, according to the law, means “with respect to an individual, the Social Security number, the home address, home phone number, mobile phone number, personal email, or home fax number of, and identifiable to, that individual.”
This can include “outing” someone who uses an alias, but normally refers to revealing whatever someone feels will humiliate, endanger, or place someone at risk–generally an address, phone number, personal e-mail addresses, or other information that will give others the ability to easily terrorize a person. Doxing is a crime, even if the information is publicly available.
As part of a legitimate news broadcast, CNN’s Ed Lavandera reported from the street on which Darren Wilson lives. “Darren Wilson lives on this street lives here on this street in another St. Louis suburb,” Lavandera said as footage of Wilson’s home rolled. He did not provide Wilson’s address or even the name of the town in which he lives–but that was enough to enrage right-wingers.
This prompted Pat Dollard, who recently suggested that “It’s time to start slaughtering Muslims in the street,” to claim that “CNN’s Hispanic Ed Lavandera” attempted to “murder white Ferguson police officer” Darren Wilson. Jim Hoft, the conservative blogger who manufactured the much-repeated lie that Wilson suffered an orbital blowout fracture, claimed that the media is trying to get Darren Wilson “lynched.”
One conservative blogger, “Paladin Justice,” at saboteur365 however, took things way too far. Despite that Lavandera at no point provided Wilson’s personal information, he claimed the reporter did–and in an attempt to exact vengeance for this imagined wrong “saboteur” did this:
That’s right–in an effort to harass Lavandera, the blogger provided the home address of the reporter–though he was not the original source. After locating Lavandera’s home address in a comment section on American Renaissance, he decided to share it with the world.
While he facetiously reminded readers that it is illegal to harass or threaten someone, “Paladin Justice,” who is too cowardly to blog under his own name, suggested that “it is a fine act of sabotage to send media traitors cards expressing your disgust with them. My own belief is that CNN deliberately put Officer Wilson’s life in danger by stirring up the crowds of ‘protestors’ to demand blood: ‘Time to kill a cop.’”
He said that “It sends a powerful message to the media that we are watching them. Put Ed Lavandera on your Christmas card list. LOL.”
As expected, readers took “Paladin’s” veiled suggestion that they use this information to harass and intimidate the reporter to heart.
“Paladin” excused his actions when some called him out for his disgusting use of the reporter’s information to launch a campaign of harassment and intimidation.
Even if the reported did reveal Wilson’s address–which he did not–it would be perfectly legal because it would have been used within ethical journalistic standards. However, when someone uses personal information to harass and intimidate, it becomes a completely different story altogether–it is a violation of all states’ stalking laws, according to a site “Paladin” should have read, The Conservative Treehouse.
While revealing Lavandera’s information in and of itself was a crime, “Paladin” faces something worse if harm comes to the reporter: he may be charged as an accessory to the crime or with the crime itself. [18 U.S.C. Sec 371 (18 U.S.C. Sec 119) b.]
Some may claim that they are simply exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. However, a 2009 statement from Michael Prout, Assistant Director for Judicial Security of the US Marshals Service explained:
“Most Internet threateners, when confronted or challenged on their statement, will claim they are only exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. And in many cases, an examination of their speech could lead us to concur.
To guard against violating a person’s First Amendment right to free speech, the USMS requires the occurrence of a “triggering event” before a protective investigation is initiated. In the area of threat management, a “triggering event” is the receipt of an inappropriate communication, or a reasonable indication that a possible threat exists.
However, one of the issues that make Internet threats so insidious is that others who hear or read this “free speech” may
interpret it differently; they may interpret it as a threat of violence, or as a call to violence, and be influenced to act out violently.
If the threat on the Internet is also accompanied by restricted personal information, it can assist in facilitating the act of
violence by locating the protectee.”
AATTP is no stranger to someone attempting to use personal information to harass and intimidate. Recently, a right-wing blogger revealed my personal information for exactly that reason. Along with my (outdated) phone number, address, and a Google map of my house, my son’s mother’s information was revealed along with both of our parents’ contact information, her father’s business and contact information, and her current employer and contact information.
Unfortunately, this has become a running theme among conservatives–and it’s not going to stop until something is done about it. On a personal note, I am sorry for what Mr. Lavandara will be experiencing in the coming weeks and months.
While he only (openly) suggested that someone send me pizzas, he tried (poorly) to connect me to two suicides and groups of people I do not know in an attempt to incite his followers to act violently.
Here are just a couple examples from the “article.”:
If my experience has taught me anything, it’s that Lavandera has a lot of this coming his way:
In addition, the Tea Party has passed around the personal information of our own Jason Troyan, along with his son’s name and school and other sensitive information. Some of them have shown up at his house to threaten him, and–as can be seen here–have promised further action if he continues to record their protests.
We sincerely hope that “Paladin’s” malicious and disgusting act does not endanger Ed Lavandera, and wish for the safety of his family. I know that, at my request, police have doubled patrols in my neighborhood. Perhaps it would be prudent for Lavandera to make the same request.