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‘Dox the powerful’: the complex politics of anonymity online

Somewhat relevant. If you're on twitter, @darth is a highly entertaining/amusing follow. Mostly photoshops of inserting himself into current events, or inserting random users into book covers/movie posters (at their request).Context - the article talks about how Valleywag/Sam Biddle is threatening to dox darth. Buzzfeed tried to do so but failed and darth disappeared for a bit, so I'm interested to see how this will turn out. I've only posted excerpts regarding anonymity/doxing. They talk about anonymous/lulzsec/hacktivism as well.

"Conventional media organizations know that revealing identity has power," explained Anil Dash, a noted technologist and the repeat victim, incidentally, of several doxing attempts. "What's new is the organized use of people's private information for activism or harassment."

That diverges from doxing's early, pre-social-media origins, when outing another user's identity served mainly as a sort of checkmate in comment-thread fights and other online disagreements. In one early incident, a combatant on an alpine skiing forum discovered an adversary's real-life identity and employer, whom he phoned. (Both men eventually lost their jobs over the fracas.) Know Your Meme, the encyclopedia of Internet happenings, also reports a series of outings in the '90s, when "it became a common practice to post another poster's personal information (or PI)."

"People need to understand that there are going to [be] consequences for their actions online," an Anonymous organizer told me at the time — insisting all the while that he remain anonymous himself.

Anonymity, after all, is a veil — a cover-up for all kinds of things, good and bad. Ripping that away is a power play. It's saying, "you deserve to be exposed to the Internet's interest and/or scorn." It's saying, "you do not have the right to your own identity."

Perhaps that's true, or should be true, in many cases: Trolls can be vicious and abusive, they can post morally repugnant, nonconsensual creepshots of underage girls, they can bully people who truly need defending. But in each case, there's a judgment being made about what kind of speech and behavior is or is not okay, what kind of secrets are or are not worth keeping — and as with all such judgments, it's important to remember who's making them.

Dash says "dox the powerful" is basically a reformulation of that old journalism motto: "afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted." But unlike old journalism, doxing has few gatekeepers, few barriers to entry, and few protections against whim or abuse.

"We've seen great social good come from people revealing the identity of bad actors in society, and had the ability to hold accountable those who otherwise wouldn't have to answer for antisocial actions. But for the most part … doxxing is typically used to help bullies keep bullying," Dash wrote. "One of the hardest parts of this issue is that the same mechanism is responsible both for holding people in power accountable and for keeping marginalized people from asserting themselves."


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