Doxing

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Danny Karon, your Lovable Lawyer, talks about the dangers of doxing:

“I wanted to get into some other types of issues today so I talked to my son who is a high school senior named Morgan. I asked him about what’s causing agitation, aggravation, and fear in younger people. He told me to talk about doxing. It’s a big problem that isn’t just unique to kids. Older people can dox, too. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about it for the sake of kids and adults.

Doxing is the practice of publishing somebody’s personal information online – name, address, where they work, information about their family members, their social security number, etc. Basically, things that are private to them.

Where does the term “doxing” come from? I learned that this practice started out as dropping people’s personal documents online. This got shortened to “doxing.”

Why would you dox someone? Maybe you’re mad at them, maybe you want to expose someone for something they did, maybe you want to get revenge, or maybe you want to get attention and stir things up by putting something online.

The real question is, what happens if you dox? Can you get in trouble for it? The answer is yes, you can get into a lot of trouble for it. You can get into two types of trouble:

  • The first is criminal trouble and liability. You could get arrested. There’s not a federal law against doxing but there is a law against stalking – 18 U.S. Code Section 2261A. That is the law that says you can’t stalk people. If a prosecutor wanted to use it to prosecute a doxing claim, you could be in some real trouble federally.

 

On the state level, there are also anti-stalking laws. One state in particular, California, tends to have pretty broad laws in a lot of respects. The California penal code says that it’s a crime to send an electronic communication, such as an email or text, with the intent of placing the recipient in reasonable fear of his or her safety or his or her family’s safety. Doxing can do that. So, if you dox in California or in another state with anti-stalking laws, which is most of them, you could be in real trouble on a state level, too. In California, the penalty associated with breaking that penal code section is up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

 

  • The second is the civil side of things, where you have to pay money to someone. There could be civil liability for doxing. However, it’s all about foreseeability. Did you think that what you did could hurt somebody or cause injury or damage? Let’s say you dox someone and they end up getting attacked because you gave up their private address. Or, they take off because they don’t want to be seen and get in a crash. The person who got doxed could argue that those were foreseeable consequences of doxing. They wouldn’t be suing the person who attacked them; they would be suing the person who doxed them. If they weren’t doxed, it wouldn’t have happened.

Does anyone deserved to be doxed? No. Even if they do something that isn’t commendable, you really can’t fall back on this as an excuse.

I talked earlier about getting attention being one of the reasons for doxing. Back in 2017, a YouTube personality, Jake Paul, thought it would be funny to dox the rapper Post Malone. Jake Paul has merch that he sells and saw that Post Malone put in an order for some t-shirts and sweatshirts. He figured it would be funny to get his address from the order and hand deliver the merch to Post Malone’s house. When he did it, he had someone filming from the street. They filmed his address, his house, and his cars. They didn’t blur it out. I don’t believe Post Malone ever sued them or that they got prosecuted in California where it happened, but that could have happened and maybe could still happen. Something could happen to Post Malone that he could tie back to the doxing.

When you get reckless and put folks’ stuff online, which a lot of kids tend to do, it can cause real problems. It can cause you criminal and civil liability and can go on your record. It could even cost you a job. It’s not worth it!

That’s today’s quick shot of legal wellness. Hope everyone stays well.”

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