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What Is Doxing?

Doxing or doxxing 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 the 1990s hacking culture. Methods for obtaining information about the person being doxed ranges from using publicly searchable databases, social media platforms such as Facebook and the hacking of personal accounts.

Why would somebody dox someone?

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. Sometimes, perpetrators can use the threat of leaking personal information in order to manipulate or potentially blackmail someone into doing or saying things they don’t feel comfortable with.

The impact of doxing

Doxing can affect someone in a wide variety of ways. It can affect someone’s mental health, professional life and in some extreme cases, their physical health. Living with the threat of being doxed or actually getting doxed can cause feelings of overwhelming anxiety which can impact their mental health.

When someone’s information is shared online, it can often feel to the victim like the entire world has gained access to the most private details of their personal life. Of course, this isn’t the case in reality – only a fraction of people would have actually seen the content being shared. Trying to rationalize the situation and gain a healthy perspective is key to dealing with doxing but it can be very difficult in practice.

The heightened anxiety levels normally remain for the duration that the content is being displayed online, or for as long as the victim is still receiving harassment and abuse in relation to that particular unauthorized disclosure. These cases of longterm anxiety and distress can aggravate pre-exisitng mental health problems and potentially even lead to mental illnesses such as depression and self-harm.

If the victim’s home address has been shared, the victim may become worried about leaving or going outside – leading to even further problems such as employment or education problems.

If your personal information such as your home address is being shared or distributed online, it is important that you assess any potential threat to your personal safety and contact the relevant authorities as you see fit.

What to do if somebody doxes you

If you have been doxed the first thing to remember is that the situation can be resolved. Fortunately, doxing breaches the terms of service for social media accounts and blog platforms – they will normally suspend the account doing the doxing and remove the content pretty quickly. Visit our Total Access Support section to learn more about the ways we can help you with your situation. See the list of tips below for things to do if you are doxed.

  • Take back control – Most breaches in personal security happen with your passwords, social media or email accounts getting compromised. Change all your passwords immediately.
  • Report the content and users – Google keywords from your personal information and compile a list of platforms that you need to contact. Report the users and the content to the appropriate platforms and ask for the content to be removed.
  • Ask for help – It is natural to want to monitor the activity online. Ask somebody you trust to do it for you – by letting somebody else take the emotional strain you can protect your mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Perspective – It can feel like the entire world has seen the data that they are sharing. In reality how many people have actually read that content or how many of them really know you? Perspective and mindset are key to dealing with doxing.
  • Assess the threat – Once you manage to gain some perspective on the situation, ask yourself if there is a real threat to your personal safety or not. Don’t be scared to reach out to your relevant authorities if you feel threatened.

Doxing example

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.