Twitter accounts of several journalists, including those working for The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Voice of America and other publications, were suspended on Thursday. Taking to Twitter, the social media platform’s new owner, Elon Musk, accused the reporters of sharing private information about his whereabouts, which he described as “basically assassination coordinates.”
The sudden suspension of accounts followed Musk’s Wednesday decision to permanently ban an account that automatically tracked the flights of his private jet using publicly available data. This also led Twitter to change its rules for all users, prohibiting the sharing of another person’s current location without their consent.
“Same doxxing rules apply to ‘journalists’ as to everyone else,” Musk tweeted Thursday.
He later added, “Criticizing me all day long is totally fine, but doxxing my real-time location and endangering my family is not.”
WHAT EXACTLY IS DOXXING?
Doxxing, also ‘doxing’, refers to disclosing someone’s identity, address, or other personal details over the internet, typically with malicious intent. This may be done through any public source or recorded databases, even via some social media platforms. The information can be obtained through criminal or otherwise fraudulent means such as hacking and social engineering.
Doxxing originates from the abbreviation ‘docs’ (documents) and refers to ‘compiling and releasing a dossier of personal information on someone’.
The act often comes with a negative connotation because it can be a means of revenge via the violation of privacy.
POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF DOXXING
Individuals or organisations exposed through doxxing techniques may be targeted for harassment. If the information retrieved via doxxing is exposed in the public domain, violating the privacy of the individual, it may lead to even more serious consequences.
As a form of intimidation, victims may also be shown their details as proof that they have been doxed.
The perpetrator may use this fear to gain power over victims in order to extort or coerce.
PROMINENT INCIDENTS OF DOXXING
The first prominent incident of doxxing took place in the 1990s on internet discussion forums. The publication of “Blacklist of Net.Nazis and Sandlot Bullies” listed the names, email addresses and phone numbers of individuals.
Later, a website called ‘Nuremberg Files’ featured the home addresses of abortion providers and language that implied website visitors should stalk and kill those listed.
In 2012, when then-Gawker reporter Adrian Chen revealed the identity of Reddit troll Violentacrez as Michael Brutsch, Reddit users accused Chen of doxing Brutsch and declared war on Gawker.
Even in 2014, when Newsweek attempted to search for the pseudonymous developer of Bitcoin, the magazine was accused of doxxing by cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
In 2020, The New York Times indicated that it was planning on publishing the real name of the California psychiatrist running the Slate Star Codex blog. It was then that fans of the blog accused the Times of doxxing.