What is Doxing and Is It Illegal?
August 19, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense Social Share
Doxing, or publishing a person’s sensitive identifying information, like their address, phone number, name, and more, in an effort to target that individual for harassment has become a fairly common internet phenomenon. Popularized by gamers playing online and “doxing” an opponent as a means of bullying, retribution, or another motive, this action can result in severe consequences for the victims.
Now a form of abuse more so on social media apps, like Twitter, doxing has been seen to be used to publish an individual’s name and unsavory views in an effort to “expose” the individual.
In this blog, we will cover examples of doxing and the repercussions for both the victim and the individual releasing the information.
According to the American Library Association, doxing can take many forms, like:
- Releasing an individual’s private photos
- Publishing an individual’s phone number and address
- Releasing information about an individual’s family members
- Releasing information about an individual’s place of employment
- Asking or insinuating that others use the information provided to target and harass the individual
Doxing became a part of popular culture in 2011, when Anonymous, a hacktivist group, exposed the personal information of 7,000 law enforcement members in response to allegations that they were looking into the hacking activities of the group. Anonymous has doxed hundreds of KKK members since then.
How Does Doxing Work?
Since “doxing” is short for “dropping dox (documents), it generally entails publishing on a public forum private “documents” or information about an individual. The methods people can use to dox others include:
- Tracking usernames and passwords
- Looking up domain name information
- Government records
- Tracking IP addresses
- Data brokers
How Does Doxing Affect the Victim?
According to a report done by SafeHome, Doxing is widespread and serious, with over 21% (43 million) of Americans having been doxed with results including employment or criminal repercussions.
These are some of the personal repercussions the victims reported:
- Online Harassment – 46%
- Public Shaming – 38%
- Lost Friendships – 38%
- Family Harassment – 35%
- Photos Distributed – 19%
With Professional Repercussion experience being:
- Harassment at Work – 27%
- Lost a Job – 27%
And Criminal Repercussions including:
- Physical Threats – 36%
- Identity Theft – 33%
Is Doxing Illegal? The Penalties
While “doxing” itself is not a crime – what it can lead to or what it represents can be criminally charged.
Cyberstalking is illegal in Florida and codified in Florida Statute § 784.048(1)(d), which states that cyberstalking means “to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”
Cyberstalking is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 12 months of incarceration and a $1,000 fine.
Florida also condemns aggravated cyberstalking, codified in Florida Statute § 784.048(3), criminalizing any person who “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.”
A credible threat is defined in Florida Statute § 784.048(1)(c) as a verbal or nonverbal threat, in person or over the phone/internet, that places the victim in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their close associates and family, which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat.
Aggravated cyberstalking is classified as a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
If an alleged offender intended to cross state lines to carry out a credible threat or an alleged cyberstalking offense involved communication transmitted through interstate or foreign commerce, the crime could be subject to federal prosecution.
The Federal government condemns this behavior and has codified this offense under 18 U.S. Code § 2261A, criminalizing any person who with the intent to kill, injure, harass, intimidate, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person, uses any interactive computer service or electronic communication service or electronic communication system of interstate commerce that places an alleged victim in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, or causes, attempts to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress.
This offense is punishable by 5 years of incarceration and a monetary fine.
To learn more about Cyberstalking, click on our blog here.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
Doxing is serious and can lead to major repercussions for both the victim and the one who has released the information. If you or a loved one has been charged with cyberstalking, focus on retaining an experienced and qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have the experience and passion to ensure that all defenses are explored in your or a loved one’s favor. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.
Written by Gabi D’Esposito