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To Dox or Not to Dox: Who Decides


On Friday, October 12, 2012, Adrien Chen of Gawker doxed a reddit user who went by the handle Violentacrez. Violentacrez was a moderator of many of the seedy underbelly of reddit’s sub forums (called subreddits and denoted by the letter r with a slash – r/). From his participation in the threads, one could characterize him as a super creepy racist. Doxing is the internet term to describe the publication of personal information to harass, intimidate or publicize an individual.

The question that I present to you isn’t whether Violentacrez is a horrible human being. Instead the questions raised by Chen’s actions are when is doxing appropriate and who gets to make that decision.

If you don’t believe anyone should be entitled to be anonymous on the internet, then doxing is of no concern. In this case, Adrien Chen and his publisher, Nick Denton, made the decision that it was okay to dox Violentacrez. Nick Denton says in the comments that “we are believers in anonymity” and that the comment burners used at Gawker Media are designed to aid in preserving commenter anonymity. We have been strong advocates for anonymity here at Dear Author and I have kept the secrets of many commenters. We do this because we believe that women who write and read romances deserve to speak and write about their subjects without fear of reprisal from those who do not agree with the content of their material. Or the very same reason that reddit supports anonymity for their readers.

Different communities have different opinions regarding doxing. Reddit is totally against doxing to the point of protecting disgusting sites like creepshots and jailbait (the latter they shut down only after being called out by Anderson Cooper). Gawker is supposedly against doxing except in some circumstances. It is unknown where their line is. The question is who gets to decide who is creepy enough to be doxed or who is doing enough “wrong” to be doxed?

Harriet Klausner is a long time reviewer, at one point the “Time Person of the Year.” She gets truckloads of books sent to her house. Someone who has a hate on for her spent hours researching news articles and compiling statistics of reviews she has performed, and did a long post about where she lives, who her husband is, and who her son is and what his date of birth is. All to attempt to prove that Harriet Klausner is selling books that she is receiving from publishers. Based on information from at least one publicist and a buyer of those books, it is likely that these books are what is known as “finished copies.” Finished copies are actual final copies of the book that are sold in stores. They are sent as promotional material, either in follow up to an ARC or to remind you that the book is on sale.

Klausner isn’t doing anything illegal by selling these books. Like many established reviewers, she is most likely receiving those books unsolicited. Yet the combination of her many reviews combined with the fact that she sells promotional materials is sufficient for accusations of fraud and support for outing of personal details along with her family members. Doxing is often not just focused on the one user but members of the family. Violentacrez’s wife, stepdaughter, and son are all part of the expose. While in the Gawker piece, those individuals aren’t named, the mere identification of Violentacrez’s real name exposes his family members to the same scrutiny.

A reviewer who used her real name on an Amazon review and left her email address was doxed by a writer and former reporter for the Telegraph. Under the guise of his position as an author and not a reporter, and without revealing his position with the Telegraph, Jon Stock emailed the reviewer and asked her to remove one of the reviews she left. She agreed. He then decided to write up this experience under the headline “How I survived a literary online mauling,” and proceeded to refer to the reviewer’s home town, position, and place of business. He did not ask her permission to reveal the contents of their email conversation, nor did he reveal to her that he would be writing this article about her, until about an hour before it posted (as revealed by the reviewer in a comment to the article).

The Stop the GR Bullies site’s weapon of choice is doxing. Melissa Douhit, a self published author, targeted GR reviewer Wendy Darling, and revealed her real name, where she worked, who her husband is, and how many children she had. STGRB adopted this same modus operandi. Then commenters and supporters of StGRB site posted pictures of another reviewer, along with her mother’s name, her husband’s name, and her hometown.

There is one consistent thread that bring all the doxers together – they believe their targets deserved it. In the article I posted about human flesh searching, the advocates admitted that at times, human flesh searching made mistakes and innocents were harmed. That’s the problem with any type of justice system, even the legal one with checks and balances. But in the vigilante world of the internet, innocents are harmed regularly because innocent is a malleable term, its definition changing depending on the person wielding the weapon.

It’s not that doxing should never be done, or that perhaps in the case of Violentacrez that the good – getting creepshots shut down on reddit – doesn’t outweigh the negative.

The problem comes in who gets to decide whether the good outweighs the negative. t’s not as if Gawker Media doesn’t have its own hands dirty. The third site launched by Denton was Fleshbot, which, among other things, posts unauthorized celebrity porn pictures and videos (NSFW). Fleshbot was sold by Denton just a couple of years ago, but for a while, he was paying Fleshbot salaries personally until he could offload the site. Gawker posted pictures of Eric Dane and his wife and another woman in a threesome. Gawker has since removed the pictures, but not reference to them. We can argue that the pictures and videos are of celebrities and thus, what, that their private moments deserve to be shared and shamed? There are no checks and balances here. Nothing, for instance, that went on in r/jailbait was likely illegal according to the lawyer that Anderson Cooper had. Violentacrez asserts that any identifying information was removed and all the below 18 photos were removed immediately upon notice. Violentacraz also never posted anything to creepshots, although he did mod it. (I don’t know whether this can be verified because the creepshots subreddit was banned and removed – as it should be in my opinion). Lest it be said that I am defending Violentacrez, I am not. I think creepshots was a horrible little community and at least one of the victims there has not returned to school which VA certainly seems not interested in addressing. What I am trying to point out is that we aren’t relying on illegalities to determine whether doxing is appropriate.

In doxing there is no ability to redress or appeal. No disinterested parties. Adrien Chen, for instance, is widely known as a reddit hater whose greatest claim to fame there is trolling the reddit base pretending to be a leukemia victim who was in the last stages of the disease. Chen now claims that he only pretended to be a leukemia victim to troll the reddit users.

Let me end with this story. When I was in law school, a fabled story of amazing criminal defense work was shared and reshared among students. When I got out of law school, I met the son of this fabled defense lawyer and got the full details. The story went something like this: The defense lawyer was so good he got off a basketball player who was robbing a fast food store when the basketball player’s picture was on a poster behind him. It was, in fact, true. The actual details of the crime went something like this: The basketball player wasn’t the brightest bulb and several defensive linemen had threatened to hurt him in a serious way if he did not carry out this robbery. The basketball player did not want to engage in this activity, but fearing for his life, he attempted the robbery and was caught. The defense lawyer mounted a duress defense, and the basketball player was pled down to a lesser offense.

The moral of the story is that we don’t always (or maybe ever) know the true facts behind people’s actions, even when they may seem “obvious” to us.

If your morals or your beliefs justify the doxing of someone, then why can’t someone else’s morals or beliefs justify their doxing? If a Catholic school has a closeted gay man teaching, don’t their morals and beliefs justify his outing? If a high school teacher is writing erotic romance, attending conferences, and engaging in the public sphere under her pseudonym, wouldn’t a fundamentalist Christian be justified in doxing that teacher to her community?

Even in a court of law, it is hard to shake out the truth, even though that is the intent of a trial – to seek the truth. In all of these doxing cases, the truth isn’t sought. Instead, the verdict is predetermined and the actions are subsequently taken to justify the doxing. I don’t know where I come down on this. I just know that it is problematic.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Laura Florand
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:20:40

    Jane, the distinction that leaps to my mind first is that between using anonymity to attack and victimize other people and using anonymity to simply protect your own privacy. (Note that I don’t consider reviews “attacking and victimizing other people” although I’m aware sometimes some authors online have expressed variations of that opinion either through words or actions.) But if you are using anonymity to do harm to other people (and expressing opinions of works released to public consumption does not count, however wounded we might feel!), then I don’t think you should be able to seek refuge in that anonymity, no. Are their some fine lines and some places where people make them even finer by splitting hairs? Definitely. But that’s true of almost everything, so I wouldn’t argue that that means we need one hard rule for everyone no matter what degree the crime. I would not argue that someone who routinely posts actual photos of other people without their consent in ways that do them very clear damage should have his own anonymity protected while exposing his victims, no.

  2. Ella Drake
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:29:10

    I had a twitter exchange with a supporter of the blogger who doxed Harriet Klausner. When I questioned the invasion of privacy, the defense was “In which case, no newspaper would ever be ableto investigate, prove ir publish exposures like this?”

    From this, I’m making the assumption he feels it’s an investigative journalist’s right to make the decision on who can be doxed. My reaction to that is, a journalist should be impartial (read the should) and balanced. But here, that doesn’t seem to be the case. When a blogger is anonymously posting one side of the story, it isn’t balanced. There’s no attempt to get her side of the story. None. And there’s certainly no attempt to ask her family members if it’s okay to include their personal information. If you aren’t researching all angles, and such an important side as her reaction, her views, I cannot call you an investigative journalist.

    Even if we can label this investigative journalism, I still think the value of uncovering personal information (even if it’s posted elsewhere by this same person) should be weighed with extreme favoritism toward right to privacy. Was there truly anything at all gained for the public good by posting personal information of Klausner’s family? Is the argument that she’s posting false reviews enough to warrant it? Is the public safer, for having this information?

  3. Ros
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:29:14

    I would like to nominate Jane as the person who decides.

    I feel like Dear Author is one of the safest places on the internet. I make the judgment based on how betrayed I would feel if you started doxing people here. On many websites I would feel wholly unsurprised.

  4. Rosario
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:31:48

    @Laura Florand: But it all goes back to the question Jane is asking: “who decides?”. Who decides what counts as “harm”? It’s obvious to you that “expressing opinions of works released to public consumption does not count” (and I completely agree!), but it’s not obvious to those who started the StGRB site. It shouldn’t be left to each individual to decide whether in a particular case, anonymity is being used in a way that is not justified.

  5. Bronte
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:32:03

    Well said Jane. As I read this commentary I’m reminded of a scene in the Lord of the rings (because I’m a nerd like that) where Gandalf and Frodo are discussing Gollum and Frodo makes the comment that Biblo should have killed him when he had the chance. Gandalf replies that Frodo shouldn’t be so quick to hand out judgment, that even the very wise cannot see all ends, and that the pity of Bilbo may yet rule them all. I think anytime you set out to ruin someone’s life you need to take a very long hard look at yourself, no matter how repugnant that other person may be. There are reasons why we have laws and law enforcement.

  6. Laura Florand
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:43:17

    @Rosario: Well, that’s a problem of the Internet in that anyone can decide. But I think in the initial case Jane cites, it’s an example of one of the far worse problems of the Internet, that of so easily victimizing people. There are also benefits to the fact that no one government entity can decide, and I’m certainly pro-Internet, but there’s a lot of ugliness that gets revealed via it. But then, I’m not, generally speaking, for anonymity, although I understand people who use it for what seem to me fairly “innocent” reasons. (Yes, wanting to write erotica without having your kids picked on or something like that seems innocent to me.) But using anonymity *against* other people…we’re talking about free societies, not a Résistance fighter working against an Occupying force or something like that. So in the contexts we’re discussing, I’m opposed to anonymous attacks. Again, criticizing a movie or a book doesn’t count, but posting photos that demean private citizens without their consent does count as an attack, to me. (And is it not illegal to post images without consent here? I know it is in France and maybe most countries in Europe??) I wish there was some nice neutral wise group of people we all agreed with who could “decide”, but unfortunately I think it’s always going to be random individuals such as the cases we’re talking about here. And if there was a nice, neutral, wise group of people, we wouldn’t always all agree with them anyway.

  7. Jennifer Leeland
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:45:56

    I don’t agree with doxing at all.
    The distinction for me is legality. If someone is doing something online that is illegal-child pornography, molestation, stalking, bullying (legal definition)-then exposing a person to the authorities would be the right thing to do.
    But it seems to me that people are too quick to point fingers, rip away covers and allow mob rule to ensue.
    There’s a website here that covers local news and they do two things that strike me as inappropriate behavior. They post mug shots of people arrested and they zeroed in on a frequent (and annoying) commenter on the sight. They even did an entire blog post on how to “deal” with him.
    I think doxing is wrong. Period. Yes, anonymous commenters can be annoying, even dangerous. But revealing true identities should be left to someone who has the legal right to do it. The feds, the police, you know people who enforce law.

  8. Deb
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:45:58

    Vigilantism of the internet- perfect.

    @Bronte- agreed. Laws are wonderful.

    I think everyone needs to realize that there is no anonymity on the internet and that you can be held responsible for your words, but there’s a line between doing that and being a bully. I’m not going to weep over a creepy racist, but the precedent is chilling.

  9. Jennifer Leeland
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 06:47:57

    I should note that The Lost Coast Outpost didn’t do the actual doxing. I think Henchman of Justice may have outed himself, but I believe the blog post reveals the way LoCO deals with it.

  10. AH
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:01:24

    What a fascinating and timely discussion. I’ve been attending several workshops on anti-bullying and I am amazed at the extent people feel comfortable posting horrible things on the internet. Nothing is anonymous. Someone will track you down. Doxing is just wrong and I am glad that law enforcement is beginning to take these things seriously.

  11. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:06:37

    When somebody is actually in jeopardy, I totally think going to the authorities is the way to go. But this whole mess just made potential victims-families of these others-the creep on Reddit-I think he’s disgusting, but what did his wife and stepdaughter do to deserve this? The guy lost his job and now they are going to be suffering.

  12. Jia
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:19:50

    It seems like this sort of thing is gaining momentum. Last night Anonymous outed the guy who supposedly harassed Amanda Todd.

    The link goes to the Jezebel post about it, a site that’s part of the Gawker family, interestingly enough. So where does the line fall? I don’t know either.

  13. Jane
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:25:14

    @Jia: Boy that whole Jezebel article is disturbing. “it looks pretty damning.” and “If Maxson is the creep who Anonymous alleges him to be, he’s in for a world of pain, as Facebook groups have already popped up with names like, “Kody maxson WILL die,” and “Kody Maxson Better Sleep With 1 Eye Open.”

  14. Sarah Wendell
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:30:25

    Then there’s doxxing like this, and I honestly do not know where I stand. 15 year old Amanda Todd committed suicide because of online bullying. Hacking collective Anonymous says they’ve identified the person who blackmailed and exploited Todd and posted his name on Pastebin.

    Most police forces do not have the time, equipment or expertise to track down online pedophiles, though some do get caught. Hackers do. Hackers doing vigilante doxxing against an alleged pedophile: ok with me. And then I feel horrible about myself for thinking that.

  15. Jane
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:34:41

    @Sarah Wendell: But what evidence do they have? Is Anonymous now the prosecutor and judge? I look at that Jezebel link that Jia left and I’m unsure exactly what the graphic from Vice shows? That the guy has a jailbait account and lives near Todd?

  16. Sarah
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:38:59

    @Jane: Yes, exactly. What if they’re wrong?

    ETA: Bother. Hit “post” without meaning to.

    One of the foundations of doxxing seems to be a lack of faith in existing legal systems by setting up the vigilante judge and prosecutor: “You’re doing X and I don’t like it, but no one will stop you, so I’m going to.” Doxxing seems to both highlight the limits of and support the existence of the legal system we’ve got.

    On one hand: would Todd’s tormentor get caught? (I admit to thinking it was unlikely). Do the guys who take underskirt pictures on the subway or assault or grope passengers get caught easily? Also unlikely. But when other people take pictures of them doing it, they can be quickly identified and exposed online for their shame and punishment.

    But is it acceptable for an alleged victim, or for Anonymous to be the prosecutor and judge, as you say? Is it ok when the vigilante gets the details wrong, or goes after someone whose greatest crime was to review a book in a way the doxxer didn’t appreciate? No.

    Yet I admit to feelings of regret that I didn’t photograph the guys who have groped me on the N/R.

  17. Meoskop
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:39:24

    @Shiloh Walker – I was talking about this on Twitter & the wife / family thing was invoked. While doxxing is a complex topic, I categorically reject Think Of The Family. Too often that argument is invoked against prosecuting a criminal, especially when the crimes are against women. We don’t know why he was fired. We don’t know what kind of father & parent he is. Either way, if his actions warranted the former the latter cannot be invoked to protect him from consequence.

  18. cecilia
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:46:31

    @Sarah Wendell: Sure, hackers have time and skill and so on, and can assist in identifying possible criminals, but why not then just give that information to police? The RCMP are already investigating. They would take information seriously. Anonymous didn’t have to whip people up into a vengeful frenzy.

  19. Patricia Eimer
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 07:48:54

    Doxing is reprehensible. It just is. At no point does someone have the right to violate someone’s privacy just because they disagree with them.

    Do I think that law enforcement has the right to investigate people who may have admitted to breaking the law online, may be doing things online that are illegal under the cloak of anonymity? Sure, that’s their job.

    Otherwise the Internet is the electronic version of a strip of bars. Some are great places, others are dives where the average patron is a mouth breathing neanderthal. The trick is to avoid the Neanderthals you disagree with just like you avoid that dive bar with the pro-hate group sign in the window or that drunk with the roamy hands who keeps wanting to show you a good time.

  20. Mireya
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 08:02:47

    I have yet to see a single case in which doxing was fully justifiable as a true “act of justice”, which is often what the perpetrators purport it to be. I’ve found

  21. hapax
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 08:37:42

    As anyone who read my comments on the creepshot thread could probably guess, I find NO justification for doxxing (outside of law enforcement) — none.

    Or any other sort of vigilante justice, for that matter.

    Sure, vigilantes are fun to read about in fiction, but so are thieves and assassins (some of my favorite fictional heros, in fact!) But I think that internet culture tends to … blur the distinction between fiction and fact, to make this kind of vigilantism (which is the flip side of bullying) much easier.

    After all, Violentacrez, Harriet Klausner, Amanda Todd, hapax — they’re just names on a screen. Made-up people, morally neutral targets, as fun and guilt-free to stalk, harass, and kill as the faceless zombie hordes in a computer game.

    It’s all too easy to forget that there is real flesh and blood, a person with a complicated and full life, a person entangled with other people, on the other side of that keyboard.

  22. Cmm
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 08:59:10

    I had no idea Harriet Klausner’s identity and location was some big secret. I knew roughly where she lived for years. I went to a hole in the wall used bookstore that always seemed to have a ton of ARCs for sale. I asked where they came from and the guy running the store said, some lady reviews a lot of books on the Internet and she drops them here to get rid of them. (she did not get money or store credit for them, for the record, but the store was selling them). Then once when I was browsing I found the packing slip still tucked inside one of them, addressed to you know who at a street address a few towns over. I said “huh, who knew she was a local?” and put the book back and moved on. The bookstore is long gone and so, I suspect, are most of the ARCs and ARC issues in this age of ebooks…dead tree ARCs are surely going, going if not quite gone.

    As for violentacrez, I don’t know much about the gawker or reddit background issues, but I saw it as investigative journalism with an actual public interest hook: lots of people like to post really sick stuff on the Internet, ever wonder what their real life is like behind the pseudonym? Here is the reality behind one of the kings of the sickos…”. Do I feel bad for the guy? A tiny bit, but mostly no. Not because what he is doing is so worthy of punishment, but because it was largely his own ego and enjoyment of his minor Internet fame that made it relatively easy to track him down. He used a lot of details of his real life on line. He made public appearances. There were pictures of him at gatherings where he was known to be violentacrez. Chen had an inside track because someone she knew had told her who he was so she knew where the trail of breadcrumbs was going and just needed to verify. That it went there. But violentacrez had been leaving the trail for quite some time, even as his fame or infamy was spreading beyond reddit. It wasn’t a question of if he would be outed, but when.

    When people express outrage on reddit at the (literal) wankers posting pictures of women in sexy poses who never meant the photos to be shared with the whole world, the violentacrez of the world and their fans shrug and say “sucks to be you, don’t pose for pics like that then, and if you do don’t put them anywhere on line because they’ll make it to the light of day someday.”. If people were upset at the posting of non consensual up skirt photos, they would say, sucks to be you, wear a longer skirt/pants/a burka to the mall then.”. So as far as this particular story goes, Mr. acrez was hoist on the same petard he hoisted many others on, and for the same reason. “Sucks to be you, if your anonymity meant so much to you then you should not have told anyone, anywhere, ever who you really were, and certainly should not have left a variety of trails that led back to you.”

    What really amuses me is the howls of butthurt from all of those “INTERNET FREEEEEDOM!” lovers who used that as their battle cry in invading so many other people’s privacy, who are simply aghast that the same FREEEEEDOM was turned against one of their own, and that SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED, MAN!!!!”. To which I say, wah.

  23. hapax
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 09:12:18

    I saw it as investigative journalism with an actual public interest hook: lots of people like to post really sick stuff on the Internet, ever wonder what their real life is like behind the pseudonym? Here is the reality behind one of the kings of the sickos…”.

    Except all of that would have been possible without publishing his real name.

    Do I feel sorry for Violentacrez? Not particularly. I didn’t “feel sorry” for the creep downstairs who was sent to the hospital by the brother of the wife he was beating. I don’t “feel sorry” for terrorists who are held illegally without trial.

    But I feel immense sorrow for the loss of respect for the rule of law, and when people casually toss it aside when they don’t like the perpetrator (or the person they believe is the perpetrator.)

    The rule of law doesn’t deliver perfect justice — I know that as well as anyone. But it’s the only thing that protects us from the tyranny of the mob.

    ETA: I do find it rather ironic that the job that Violentacrez was fired from was a payday lender / pawn shop. Who knew that a business so dependent upon preying on the vulnerable would be so touchy about the private activities of its employees?

  24. Sirius
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 09:25:05


    “The rule of law doesn’t deliver perfect justice — I know that as well as anyone. But it’s the only thing that protects us from the tyranny of the mob.”

    This. So much. And everything else you said. It is not that I have an ounce of sympathy for that Violentacrez person, I so very much don’t. It is that “who gets to decide” question and worrying that next person could be me – in the hypothetical of course. If what that creep did was not illegal (and I did not check, did not look will not look), only immoral, who is to say that one day somebody will decide that I should not be allowed say to discuss gay romance on the internet? I am ALL for exposing creeps to the police, call them, involve them if you think something illegal takes place, but not for this.

  25. Jackie Barbosa
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 10:00:28

    @Cmm: What really amuses me is the howls of butthurt from all of those “INTERNET FREEEEEDOM!” lovers who used that as their battle cry in invading so many other people’s privacy, who are simply aghast that the same FREEEEEDOM was turned against one of their own, and that SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED, MAN!!!!”. To which I say, wah.

    And yet, you posted anonymously (“Cmm” hardly being a handle which could lead anyone to figure out who you are elsewhere on the Internet). The irony…

  26. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 10:37:15

    @Meoskop: Agree. The article I read stated that this man’s wife has a similar internet handle (something-acres) and spent time online with him. If she was unaware of his activities, now she knows. I’d want to know if my husband was participating in crap like this. Violentacres also bragged about his 19 year old stepdaughter performing oral sex on him. I wonder if it was forced or coerced. His ex-wife knew about this incident and stayed married to him for ten years. I’m bringing this up because I have limited sympathies for women who enable and protect abusers of other women and children.

    The doxxing could have a positive effect on his family members and encourage them to get help if they need it.

    I also agree with the first comment. This man used anonymity to facilitate violations of women and children. He doesn’t deserve protection. It’s likely that his doxxing will help victims by preventing other men from taking and posting creepshots.

  27. Courtney Milan
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 11:05:06

    My first feeling about doxing is this: It is an asshat move. It is always an asshat move.

    My second feeling about doxing is this: There’s a difference between what should be legal and what should be considered socially acceptable. My feeling is that doxing should be legal but socially unacceptable.

    My third feeling is this: In the event that someone is harmed by a doxing, the remedy is precisely the same remedy that victims of other internet abuse have: bring suit charging the person with defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    This is not to say that I think doxing is acceptable. It’s simply to say that I don’t wish to bias the cesspool of flagrant trollery in favor of one particular kind of troll. Given the speech that we cast a blind eye to on the internet, I don’t think that doxing is any more abhorrent than many other things that we let slide.

  28. LauraB
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 11:37:29

    @Laura Florand:

    Thank you Laura! I think you put your finger on it. It’s how the anonymity is used.

    I read the piece on Violentacrez and was troubled (as was the author), but I didn’t hear/read malice in the doxing. I didn’t get the feeling that Chen was trying to punish Violentacrez as much as he was trying to report on him. Revealing his “secret identity” may have been unnecessary, but I am not sure how harmed VA has been. Apparently, his whole family is aware of his activities and somewhat participates. Likewise, it’s not as if he’s Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker where a hidden identity is necessary to fight crime. :)

    BTW, this LOLcat is purrfect!

  29. Avery Flynn
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 11:40:41

    What if the doxing is done not on the internet, but as part of a traditional media piece. I’m thinking about all of the investigative reports written and broadcast. Is it only doxing because it is done on the internet?

  30. hapax
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 11:50:17

    It’s how the anonymity is used.

    An anonymous woman used her cellphone to document her abortion (Warning: graphic images of a medical procedure, possibly NSFW) and posted it online. Her intention was to de-mystify the procedure and help women struggling with their own decisions.

    HOWEVER, anti-abortion advocates could easily and sincerely argue that she was using her anonymity to exploit the “murder of an innocent baby” and encourage other women to do the same.

    Would they be justified in doxxing the poster? After all, they would be doing so out of the purest intentions of not only shaming a vile and guilty murderer, but in preventing further harm to innocents.

    I mean, it’s obvious to me where the line between “beneficial anonymity” and “harmful anonymity” is, but I have yet (alas!) to be crowned Queen of the Internet. In the absence of anyone else in that position, who gets to decide?

  31. Lori
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 12:17:42

    I want to say that doxxing is wrong and would always be wrong but I’m having a problem even saying it to myself. If someone is posting pictures of underage girls on the internet for the purpose of sexualizing them, then I’m going to have an issue arguing that they deserve anonymity.

    On the other hand….

    It just seems to me that is anonymity and silence are the best weapons for a predator, then refusing the predator both of those things might put the predator in more peril.

  32. Marianne McA
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 12:23:48

    Do I feel sorry for Violentacrez? Not particularly. I didn’t “feel sorry” for the creep downstairs who was sent to the hospital by the brother of the wife he was beating. I don’t “feel sorry” for terrorists who are held illegally without trial.

    But I feel immense sorrow for the loss of respect for the rule of law, and when people casually toss it aside when they don’t like the perpetrator (or the person they believe is the perpetrator.)

    Just teasing that out, both the creep and the terrorist are having things done to them that are illegal and that contravene their basic human rights. So immoral as well.
    But do we have a right to anonymity? Or is it just an expectation?

    I’m not taking a position, just trying to work out what I think.

    If we take the position that holding terrorists illegally is wrong, it’s because we believe in the moral principle that everyone – no matter what they’ve done – has a right to liberty and a fair trial.
    But what’s the equivalent moral principle in this instance? Doxing is wrong, because we believe that everyone – no matter what they’ve done – has a right to ….?

    Is it privacy?

    I’m kind of thinking of a real world example, where someone graffittied along some boarding in town ‘(Local photographer’s name) left his pregnant wife for his girlfriend.’ If it’s true, does the fact that someone wrote it in a public place mean the rule if law has been tossed aside? Might not be a nice thing to do, but is it actually illegal or immoral?

    (Sorry about all the question marks: I’m just thinking aloud.)

  33. MrsJoseph
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 14:11:14

    I think that the problem is not only doxxing…but it is that someone else makes a decision to make another person famous without their consent.

    (not commenting on his doxxing but) VA wanted to be famous…that’s why he took pains to appear in public and had such massive control at Reddit. But most other people being doxxed do not want to be famous….but they are becoming instant overnight net stars. And there is something very wrong about that…

    Especially in the instance of Jon Stark and the reviewer. Now every crazy who has the internet can look up this woman (by first, last and middle initial) as well as the fact that they know her exact place of work. Thanks Jon Stark. Hope someone returns the favor.

  34. MD
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 16:14:39


    One of the foundations of doxxing seems to be a lack of faith in existing legal systems by setting up the vigilante judge and prosecutor

    I think this is the crux of the problem: the existing legal system is not effective, and we are struggling with finding something effective.

    I am using a pseudomnym. My name is too unique. I had to deal once with a mentally unstable person who got hold of my address and contact info, and it’s extremely frightening. My recourse was police. But I could do it because he was local, I was local, and the police officer was willing to get involved (and even then, they could not do that much, I was saved by that person being jailed and taken away for an unrelated offense). On the internet, the vast majority of time, there is no recourse for the victim of anything (bullying, defamation, doxing…)

    A lot of hate speech on the internet would be harassment and creating hostile environment, something that would never be tolerated in a public space. People get fired for such comments; football clubs and their fans get fined for racial incidents (at least here in the UK). But there is no mechanism to do that on the internet, where people are protected by the anonymity, and any legal issues can be circumvented by locating your server, say, in Equador, where laws don’t apply.

    I think doxing is wrong, and indeed it leads to the rule of the mob. The problem is, I don’t think there is a proper legal system on the Net, and proper protection for anyone. So we get creeps on the one side, and vigilantes on the other, and no solution that I can really see :(

  35. Nick Douglas
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 16:55:10

    “While in the Gawker piece, those individuals aren’t named, the mere identification of Violentacrez’s real name exposes his family members to the same scrutiny.”

    No it doesn’t. The vast majority of people who would contact, investigate, or otherwise interact or affect Violentacrez because of this piece are only interested because of his actions, actions his family has never been implicated in. While they may possibly be exposed to some scrutiny as a result of his exposure, it will definitely not come close to his own exposure.

  36. paganalexandria
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 19:01:33

    I have absolutely no compassion for this person. I hate Internet badassness. I find it scary that people are defending this persons “right” to provide masturbation material for pedophiles. He should have been outed. If my neighbor were this creepy, I would want to know. The story about the step-daughter revelation makes me wonder about the secrets he would never tell.

  37. Sirius
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 19:04:20

    @paganalexandria: I do not see a single person on this thread defending this person right “to provide masterbation material for pediphiles.”

  38. RabidReader
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 19:24:03

    I can’t figure out what I think in this case, but I’m pretty sure the guy removed photos of anyone OVER 17 years old, not UNDER from the jailbait. Cuz, you know, then they wouldn’t be jailbait. That’s what the Gawker article said, and I don’t see him denying it.

  39. Gennita Low
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 20:51:11

    Aw, he lost his job. Why, Reddit should hire him. Controversy solved.

  40. paganalexandria
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 23:21:38


    Maybe my reading comprehension skills are subpar but it seemed the writer of this article was pondering where they stood on this person being outed. I have no problem with him being outed. When I clicked on the links imbedded in said article there where several mentions of people being on the side of this person. It seems that Gawker is being “internet sanctioned” for daring to out Violentacrez. I didn’t call out a particular person on this thread. My comment was directed at the original information provided. It was not meant to offend. I didn’t know it was not allowed. My bad.

  41. Ridley
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 23:35:16


    Maybe my reading comprehension skills are subpar but it seemed the writer of this article was pondering where they stood on this person being outed.

    Your logic is messed up. Not supporting Gawker’s decision to out Violentacrez is not the same as supporting his right to post creepy pictures.

    I don’t agree with Gawker. I am uncomfortable with vigilante justice, and don’t like the precedent it sets. What Violentacrez was doing wasn’t illegal, so what gives anyone else the right to publicly air his identifying information? Where do we draw the line? How do we define the line?

    There are other ways to deal with stuff like this. Why not go after Reddit, which is the site that Violentacrez and others post these pictures? Why not agitate for penalties for people who post other people’s images without their permission?

  42. Ann Somerville
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 01:06:27

    First of all – good post, Jane. Your opinion on this exactly aligns with mine, which should worry both of us :)@paganalexandria:

    ” I have no problem with him being outed. ”

    Well, maybe you should. He’s a waste of oxygen unquestionably, but being a waste of oxygen is not in fact illegal. So it comes down to someone disapproving of what he was up to, having access to the information to out him, and making the call to do that.

    The problem is that a lot of the people who make those kind of decisions target people who are innocent even of moral crimes, who are falsely accused, or where the standard being breached is more about who is butthurt rather than who is a danger to society (see the reference to Melissa Douthit and STGRB in the original post.)

    Doxxing is the internet equivalent of a loaded gun – in the hands of the irrational or the censorious or the deviant, it can and *does* hurt people who have done nothing wrong, and once it’s fired and the person’s reputation, career, privacy or credibility is destroyed, there’s no way to undo it.

    I don’t think loaded guns belong in the hands of anyone who’s not legally approved to hold one, is required to hold one, and is trained to hold one (which means I don’t agree with the right to bear arms that so many Americans hold dear. Shoot me, I’m Australian…wait, please don’t shoot me.) And I don’t think doxxing is something that anyone not in law enforcement or the justice system should ever do.

    Violentacrez’s activities could have been stopped without outing him. Douthit and the STGRB mob could have whined about bullies being so mean to poor widdle authors without putting women in danger. There is almost no situation I can imagine where the police shouldn’t be involved but where doxxing is appropriate, and even then, I have no faith in vigilantes to exercise justice fairly or accurately.

    Trust me. I’ve been doxxed – unfairly. I know whereof I speak.

    Not pertaining to your comment – this morning a well known author* posted on her blog that as far as she was concerned, being doxxed was a risk on the internet and if we aren’t careful about our personal information, it serves us right. A well known blogger* was spouting this same crap on Sunita’s latest blog post – and has previously offered the same opinion here on DA, adding that they didn’t care if the information came to them through a private venue like work or a private party. As far as they are concerned, if it’s out there, it can be used and victims shouldn’t whine.

    Well, if we want the internet to be a place ruled by feral hyenas, I guess this works. But if we believe that it’s immoral and unjustifiable to gather private information together and publish it (as this blogger has in fact done in the past) whether over a grudge or a genuine moral outrage, then we have to say to people blaming the victims of doxxing – “No, you’re the one whose moral sense is buggered. You’re the one in the wrong.”

    I’ve said Adrian Chen was wrong to do what he did and I still believe that. He’s not on any moral highground at all.

    *Names omitted to avoid wank.

  43. paganalexandria
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 03:16:10

    See, I’ve been on the other side of internet crazy. Fake websites with photo shopped porn with your head added because it’s funny and anonymous. I would have loved if that group of people were outed. Reading about this issue brought all this up again. I’m not famous or special, just someone guilty of being part of a music message board at one time. I don’t know this guy; barely go on Gawker or ever on Reddit. I DO have a serious issue with the rampant ugliness people spew all over the internet because no one knows who you are.

    I do feel bad for Ann and others like her, but it’s how I feel.

  44. DesLivres
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 03:22:04

    Reading Jane’s article, and subsequent comments, I kept thinking: “two wrongs don’t make a right” – a proverb which never made sense to me until I practised family law. The reddit person being a waste of oxygen doesn’t justify Chen’s wrong action in disseminating his personal information.

    Having said that, doxing (my new word for the day) exists because there does seem to be a rule of law vacuum around activity on the internet – people are doxing (I’m deducing from reading Dear Author including comments) because they feel (reasonably or not) that there is no authority to report things to/fix things up. Threatening someone or abusing them over the phone, by email or face to face is assault here in Australia (and presumably other common law jurisdictions?), a criminal offence, yet somehow it is considered acceptable on webforums, facebook, in comments etc.

    I’ve been toying with the notion of “internet citizenship” (as a thought experiment – I’m not advocating this) where we would be as obliged to conduct ourselves online as civilly as we are in everyday life – with sanctions including prohibition from interacting online for periods of time. Which takes us back to the “who decides” question of course. I’ve got no clue what to suggest there – other than maybe jurisdictions adjusting their legal systems more to cater to online activity.

  45. Ann Somerville
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 04:05:04


    “Fake websites with photo shopped porn with your head added because it’s funny and anonymous.”

    God, that’s horrible. I’m so sorry you’ve had that done to you. But the problem is that doxxing is used by exactly the same kind of people and for the same reasons – look at STGRB (who have a new post up whining about how Jane’s post is sooo unfair and like, they didn’t *dox* – they just got a bunch of private information from various sources on the net and put them together with an inflammatory spin and like, it was *totally* not their fault that Lucy got threatening emails. Why, they’re the *real* victim, because Lucy got mad and threatened to expose them…because they’re hiding behind aliases while posting the real life names and information of everyone they hate. I know. Logic isn’t their strong suit.)

    See, I know the real name of the woman who made allegations about me, who incited others to post my name and emails and personal details around the place. She used to post fanfiction under it, until she was preparing herself for her great victim act. So under her logic, I’d be perfectly entitled to name her as the person behaving like a hyaena. But I don’t and haven’t and wouldn’t, despite the fact that her crap just won’t die.

    Same with the people behind STGRB. We know who runs it and her name, which is her author name as well. Much more is also known about her and her family. And you know what? Not a single person affected by this woman’s actions has posted that anywhere public – in fact when someone (not one of the targets) tried to do that on a blog post of Foz Meadows’, she removed it instantly and condemned the action. Yet she’s been labelled a bully just for writing to the person behind STGRB and trying to warn them what other people might be pushed into doing.

    *That’s* what makes us better than them, Alexandria. We could do it, but we don’t. And while we cling to that standard, we can look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning, and know we never sunk that low.

    It’s easy to take revenge, or to hurt someone because you have the protection of anonymity. It’s not so easy to live with the fact you’re a disgusting arsehole that people would walk away from if they knew you were the kind of person who runs STGRB, or colluded with them.

    Everyone has a choice. Adrian Chen had a choice. Violentarcrez had a choice. Melissa Douthit had a choice. They all chose badly. But we don’t have to do likewise.

  46. Kate Julia
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 07:59:08

    I read the Gawker piece and have to admit to being torn while reading it. Mr. Violentacrez is a reprehensible human being. But did he deserve to be outed the way he was? He didn’t try that hard to maintain his anonymity, showing up to IRL reddit meetings and what not, but does that mean he should have been exposed in an article sure to go viral? He exposed other people’s daughter’s, but does that mean his stepdaughter should be exposed?

    I don’t know the answer to these questions. At best, doxxing is a moral gray area. At worst, it is bullying from a pulpit with a bullhorn.

    But here is what I do know: the internet never promised us anonymity. I think most of us have been lulled into this false sense of security in which we believe what we do online will remain private. Just because it should remain private doesn’t mean it ever would. Privacy on the internet is a farce we’ve all come to believe is a right. The fact is it doesn’t really exist.

    The internet is the wild west, for crying out loud. People can steal your identity. Easily. They can overtake your debit cards or email addresses or gaming accounts. Perverts lift photos from the victim’s own facebook accounts. It’s madness. I’ve been in fandom forums where one side infiltrates the opposition just to report back everything the enemy says verbatim. I’ve heard of blog owners being doxxed just for liking Eric over Bill on True Blood. I know a girl who’s ex-boyfriend stalked her for years, even after she moved to another state, using only information he found online.

    The internet is a wild, dangerous place. It makes no promises of privacy or safety. The fact is, we were never guaranteed our online activities would remain a secret. Violentacrez always ran the risk of being exposed, we all do, but that doesn’t mean he needed to be outed on such grand a scale.

    Edited for typos.

  47. paganalexandria
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 12:46:51

    @Ann Somerville:
    “God, that’s horrible. I’m so sorry you’ve had that done to you. But the problem is that doxxing is used by exactly the same kind of people and for the same reasons – look at STGRB”

    I goggled STGRB and discovered a new level of cray cray. My mind boggles that adults have this kind of time. Now I see why my initial post garnered so much attention, because regulars in this forum have had personal experience with this issue. Ann, at least what happened to me was “fake”. It didn’t affect my real life, just my cyber one.

    This is my first time posting on this site and it will be last on this thread. I visit this site a lot will post on something less controversial next time :). My comments were not meant to upset anyone. I really just thought this was like a hypothetical “where do you stand” issue.

  48. B. Sullivan
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 20:11:25

    I don’t like doxxing. Specifically I don’t like anyone using hacking into a database or social engineering such that people unconsciously give up information. Or when people out others in order to shame and embarrass them. But. If your alias is important to you, you must safeguard it. Which means limited if any use of social media (you use other aliases for that). Which means you don’t go on podcasts. Which means you don’t attend meetups under your alias and/or real name. Which means you don’t do reddit Ask Me Anything interviews and tell personal sex stories. Those are things that get attention and can be problematic in staying anonymous.

    One of the reasons Violentacrez was the focus of attention was because of the reddit substitute teacher who took photos of his underage students and posted them in creepshots. A local media story on it:

    That’s an illegal act, aside from the trust issues that were violated. Violentacrez was supposed to be shepherding creepshots to keep out underage content, but apparently these got in. Jezebel posted about this, which further up’d the scrutiny. Apparently a group of women who’d been complaining about this a lot to reddit decided to out some of the creepshots posters – because reddit is notoriously hands off in its moderation of content.

    I could be much more on the fence about this if, from reading about the teacher incident, it didn’t seem like it was really, really easy to track him down. In this incident – no matter how you feel about Violentacrez’s work – it’s hard to argue that the teacher should not have been outed.

    There are a lot of redditors (not all) who feel that no one should be doxxed for any reason, regardless of any law violation. That no one should be outed for anything ever. The site has an entirely different view about how homosexuality and women should be treated (it’s not very welcoming let’s just say) – and there’s a pretty clear “we care more about doxxing when it’s one of us, not so much about anyone else/non reddit members” attitude. For instance there were a lot redditors calling out to hunt down/doxx the woman/women who were outing/doxxing the creepshot posters.

    I was going to share some quotes about how Violentacrez has a problematic attitude toward ages and what child porn is (in a recent, post doxxing post – yeah he’s still posting on reddit, with a different handle) but let’s just say that he’s shown more than one example that it was perhaps a really bad idea to make him one of the main moderators of NSFW/porn content, such that he was responsible for culling out illegal posts/images. The main admins of reddit are very hands off, so he was give a lot of responsibility for a mere volunteer. And he had the ear of those admins, and the people who complained about the content and the illegal stuff didn’t (voted down), and were apparently frustrated that they couldn’t find a way to combat what they felt was a wrong. And now we begin to see that yes, on a website that’s just recently gotten rid of r/jailbait, it is actually worthwhile to shine a light on how that content is being culled, and who is doing the culling. (I’m not giving any links because there’s some disturbing stuff. The mere list of the names of the forums the guy mod’d is cringeworthy.)

    Again, I’m not a fan of doxxing, or Jezebel or Gawker. I do understand why those people outing the creepshots took that info to law enforcement – at least the photos of the students that had been posted by the teacher. In this example, that’s the part that I just can’t look at and say “nope, everyone should have kept mum, doxxing always is a violation.

    Oh and Mrs. Violentacrez knew about her husband’s activities. She has been an active redditor apparently, nothing like her husband’s usage or interests. So she knew if he was outed her identity was tied to his. I find this sad – I’m in a situation where I can be found via who I married, so I can relate. At the same time my husband doesn’t do anything at all online like Violentacrez. So, there’s that.

  49. B. Sullivan
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 20:24:07

    Also upsetting – Violentacrez lives and works in Texas. It’s an at will state ( so your employer can fire you pretty easily. He has a wife with a health problem and currently unemployed. So not only did he get fired, he lost all his health care and apparently can’t afford Cobra. And that is a reason he really, really should have been more careful with his alias. That he’s still posting on reddit, now under his real name, is kind of argh, dude, I do not like you but just stop adding further content to your online profile, this is not helping matters. (But is probably a sign of a continuing bad judgement problem.)

  50. Jane
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 20:29:12

    @B. Sullivan: I hear what you are saying and I agree that Viol-crez is one of the most problematic people in terms of doxing (but also a great example in this ethical quandary). But your examples suggest that any author who uses a pseudonym is fair game for doxxing. If she shows up at conferences, does promotions, and so forth, all under her pseudonym, then whatever comes of her outing is ultimately her own fault at failing to preserve her anonymity.

    For me, and maybe not for others, I don’t see a lot of daylight between pseudonyms and consistent online handles. Thus if we believe that authors and even bloggers deserve to use pseudonyms without doxxing them, then how much onus is on the individuals to “preserve their anonymity” and how much do we place on the community to not dox?

  51. B. Sullivan
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 22:49:50

    I think my main problem is that I’ve been online the past few days in a long thread trying to have a conversation with redditors of the “free speech/anon no matter what” side, and they will talk about anything but the illegal underage stuff. That’s a non issue for them, not something to bother about, and the doxxing is the only important, unfair part. I think you can’t really look at only a part of this, but the whole of what was going on. Reddit is playing the “it’s not ok to doxx people we like” argument just as much as the opposite side is going for the “it’s ok to doxx this person because he’s awful.” And it’s messy in that I don’t see an easy statement here. I’d have preferred a story about “reddit uses this anon guy known as X as a gatekeeper and here’s how that’s problematic.” But once we had the teacher outed as taking photos of his students and posting them on creepshots? Yeah, that has to be a part of this story because that made a certain portion of folk – yes, mainly women – say “THIS is what we’ve been trying to complain about.” You could make the case that if he wasn’t doxxed everyone would have ignored the story anyway – though I think that’s kind of a cop out.

    I don’t mean to suggest anyone is fair game. I don’t think it can be about “who deserves the safety of their handle.” There is the public figure vs private citizen concept, but I think there have been plenty of noxious things done to public figures. But thinking there’s security in that alias only goes so far was how secure you make yourself. (It’s funny, a lot of this is only the kind of thing only hackers used to worry about, not regular users.) And it’s near impossible to have that 100%. I think that anyone can have their personal information outed through no fault of their own, and at best you can take some precautions and then hope it doesn’t happen. There are certainly not many laws to protect you from it. But reddit would have us protect – for example – both the identity of the person being bullied and the person doing the bullying. Some bullies won’t stop, no matter what you ask of them or how many nice warnings. So the bullied person is just out of luck, with reddit anyway, and perhaps online in general as there aren’t many options for help. Outing the bully – who hasn’t broken any laws – doesn’t seem a fair option (depending on circumstances of course), but then there’s no consequence for his/her actions, and that doesn’t really help the rest of us when they switch targets.

    It’s kind of odd that the teacher story is hardly referenced at all -in other online discussions that is – in the Violentacres/Gawker thing, because the reaction to that has a lot to do with the doxxing. As in the women who felt is was a moment of “look, here is what we’ve been telling you, just because you don’t have names on these photos doesn’t mean that it’s ok to post them – and you haven’t been listening to us.”

    I actually don’t have a happy solution here, and I’m not sure where we go with this online. We can agree that it’s not nice/does not lead to a pleasant online society to doxx, and keep to that, those of us who are honestly playing the “I am thinking of others’ lives” – but then there’s all the other folk who don’t act that way. There’s nothing hindering them from doxxing, especially with publicly available information. And then there’s what to call investigative journalism – whether we think doxxing in that context is ok, or if that should wait until there’s a case for law enforcement (con: what about those cases where the journalism spurred the law to act) – and whether if someone does something similar and calls it citizen journalism if that’s going to be accepted (this is another tricky area). Should the people who went to the police with the photos the teacher posted be penalized in some way for then blogging that information? Again, I got nothing. Lawmakers, start pondering it, maybe? Legal scholars?

    Meanwhile the side of me that wants all to be fair read the story of the teacher I linked and immediately thought “did he consult a lawyer before he handed his phone over to the police? Because that seems like a bad idea, in his case.”

  52. ginmar
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 00:17:43

    I can’t believe so many people are getting it wrong. Brutsch didn’t try to keep out underage shots; he made sure that any photo of a victim who was of age was rejected. If one doesn’t wish to be nailed for being the guy who moderated forums called: niggerbait, deadjailbait, and shit that would make Stormfront quail, maybe one shouldn’t do this kind of crap.

    Do people not get the difference between a predator and his prey at all? Some people have the luxury of abstract principles. The rest of us don’t. I was doxxed because the doxxer claimed I ‘hadn’t protected (myself) well enough.” What was my sin? Criticizing the policy of torture while serving in uniform. A large group of men tried to get me court martialed for it. Are you really going to tell me that a guy who searches for pictures of exploited and violated underage girls is exactly the same as a guy who uses the “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” gambit? We don’t treat shoplifting like we treat armed robbery. We don’t treat predators like we treat their victims. And yet here are people getting wound up about this predator, this sleaze, who had a choice and who chose to prey upon defenseless underaged girls and women who dared to think they were more than pieces of meat.

    I got another piece of hate mail at my house on Saturday. They like to let me know that they know where I live. Am I the same as the asshole who made sure that his forum contained only photos of underaged girls?

  53. Ridley
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 09:54:07

    @ginmar: You’re living proof of how vigilantism harms people and leaves them no recourse. You’re welcome to think it’s worth the risk of people doxing people like you and me if occasionally people like VA get doxed, but the majority of us don’t. We don’t feel bad for him, but we’d have liked to see this handled differently.

    After all, how many abortion doctors have been gunned down after anti-abortion fanatics posted their identifying information online? The fanatics thought they were righting a serious wrong too.

  54. ginmar
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 13:21:07

    Ridley, that is a truly shitty thing to say to me, and I demand an apology. If you can’t tell the difference between stalking and exposing a predator who still poses and risk, I’m not the one damaged by whatever you think it is. Brutsch’s case, where the guy hosted men like that teacher who surreptitiously took non consensual pictures of his underaged students, and thus let those pictures free to be copied, duplicated, and so forth forever, means that without being outed he could be slithering around next to his coworkers’ daughters right now. He’s a lawsuit waiting to happen for his boss, and I sure wouldn’t work next to the guy knowing his hobby is taking pictures of womens’ asses and boobs in such a way that they can’t defend themselves.

    People calling it vigilanteism are engaging in hyperbole to say the least. Chen had a story and he wrote about it. He didn’t accuse Brutsch of shit he didn’t do; he didn’t twist his quotes; he published the simple truth. Douthit did exactly the opposite. She invented offenses, made up outrageous lies, never spoke to her victims, never had any pretense of fairness, and attacked people who had never had so much as a parking ticket.

    Brutsch concealed his identity because he knew that his acts were reprehensible. That’s no different from any crook wearing gloves and a ski mask. Other people on the internet use handles to protect themselves from people like him.

  55. Ridley
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 17:17:10

    @ginmar: What’s a shitty thing to say to you? You don’t agree that the people who exposed you for your stance on torture exemplify the pitfalls of vigilantism?

    To be honest, you’re not making a ton of sense to me.

  56. Ann Somerville
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 19:09:51


    I think the logical fallacy that some people are falling into is to believe that if we are against doxxing regardless of who it’s used against, that we are then conflating all the people who have been doxxed and saying they are all morally equivalent.

    Whereas this is *not* what anyone is saying. VA is garbage – dangerous, repulsive garbage. Ginmar and the victims of STGRB, or the gay couple doxxed by the disgusting neo-Nazi Nick Griffin today, are clearly innocent of any wrong doing and are the victims of a gross outrage. There is no equivalence, nor is anyone making it.

    But doxxing as a tactic, no matter who it’s applied to, is a dangerous and immoral action because it’s vigilantism. Leave retribution to the justice system. And in VA’s case, his legal but revolting activities could have been dealt with in other ways that didn’t let Adrian Chen get his rocks off by trolling Reddit. Journalism, my bottom.

  57. ginmar
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 19:21:47

    You’re not even trying, Ridley. You still owe me that apology. Apparently you’re determined to pretend that there’s no difference between victims fighting to defend themselves against predators like Brutsch and Brutsch preying on victims—-and then blaming them for his ability to prey upon them. Brutsch’s fans and defenders have repeatedly argued that if his victims were not so intent on displaying themselves in shocking places like school, work, or market that they would not have been victimized, but when it’s pointed out that Brutsch is being hoist by his own actions in justifying predation, suddenly he’s the victim. The actual victims get ignored.

    Brutsch would have been able to choose not to seek out and post photographs of underaged girls, much like Vanity would have been able to not post lies and pure fantasy. Brutsch gave his victims no choice at all. Vanity censors any comment pointing out that there’s no substance to her charges. Their situation is entirely of their own making. Their victims are blameless.

    When you patronizingly declare that I was damaged by vigilante harassment, it’s insulting. When you compare the murder of doctors with the exposure of the sort of men—or man, really, because how often has this even happened?—-who harass and attack women in whatever capacity one has to wonder how you can even compare these groups. Brutsch is more likely to be on the side of the people who expose and murder doctors who help women; his actions were to invade the privacy of women and girls and then try and fob it off as some First Amendment struggle by poor dear oppressed him.

    Tell me, when an author is found posing as a reviewer to slag his rivals and praise his own work, does that anger you as much as this does? When a writer is exposed for plagiarizing does that anger you as well? Both involve using online aliases and sometimes these people also go so far as to harass people while hiding behind their aliases. Brutsch and his thousands of defends actually stalk women. They attempted to conceal their identities the same reason a bank robber wears a mask, or an author adopts an alias to praise his book and attack that of his rival. But Brutsch committed far more serious harm in unambiguous ways, admitted it and was caught doing it. He and men like him are the very reason so many of us have to use pseudonyms.

    I really have to wonder if the victims were anything but women and girls people would be so determined to make Brutsch into a victim. He preyed on teenaged girls. He didn’t want to get caught doing so, but he didn’t want to stop doing it, because he enjoyed it. How is exposing him any different from exposing the writer who commits fraud, or plagiarizes books, or anyone, in fact, who uses an alias from behind he seeks to continue preying on people?

  58. Jane
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 19:30:19

    @ginmar: I hear you saying that you believe that the doxing of Viol-crantz was appropriate. There are many that agree with you on this thread. What others are saying and what I am suggesting in the post is that the decision to dox isn’t being done by an impartial judicial system but by individuals, some even with axes to grind. The question is whether this is something that should be done because it is essentially vigilantism.

    I don’t think that your position and Ridley’s is really that far apart and I can’t read anything in Ridley’s comment that is insulting toward you, personally. Perhaps I am missing something.

    I guess the difference between outing V-crantz is that he wasn’t doing anything illegal and if he was, why weren’t those details handed over to the authorities? The problem as suggested upthread is that we don’t have good laws to handle what is going on in terms of predatory behavior on the internet. Is posting pictures taken surreptitiously illegal, for example? Should it be? What kind of laws, repercussions for those actions, should take place? I don’t know and I don’t think that we have it all thought out yet.

    Because there is no legal recourse, we have vigilantes – people acting to mete out justice by themselves based on their own judgment of right and wrong, moral and immoral – rising up. In that case, as the article I referred to in the case of Chinese Human Flesh Searching, innocents are harmed.

    It’s a big moral and ethical quandary. That people come down on different sides doesn’t mean that one side is attacking the other.

    I am serious in my confusion on how disagreeing is an attack here.

  59. Ann Somerville
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 20:14:43


    Ridley is actually one of the victims of STGRB’s doxxing.

    “Apparently you’re determined to pretend that there’s no difference between victims fighting to defend themselves against predators like Brutsch and Brutsch preying on victims”

    She has said nothing of the sort. Nor has anyone else. In fact the only people confused on the issues would appear to be STGRB and the woman behind it – and as you are well aware she has reasons to obfuscate what doxxing is.

    Watching you attack someone who is on your side, and a fellow victim, is really quite distressing. Ridley is not blaming you or ignoring what happened to you – she’s *sympathetic* to your situation.

    Please go reread what she wrote, I wrote, and what Jane just wrote. No one is making the smallest excuse for Violentacrez, or dismissing his victims. No one is saying your situation and his offences are remotely the same. No one.

  60. acriticalreviewofthehelp
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 09:21:05

    I think this may have caused part of the problem:

    “You’re living proof of how vigilantism harms people and leaves them no recourse.”

    Because I think this statement could be taken two ways. I took it as what was done to Ginmar, and continues to be done (as she stated, she got another piece of hate mail to her home) which leaves her with no recourse.

    However, it could be also be taken literally, that it’s ginmar and her stance that is at issue when it’s read in the heat of debate (I’m just pointing this out, I don’t think this was Ridley’s intent and I didn’t read it that way). I think there are valid points being made by both Ridley and Ginmar, and hope this does not stop the discussion, because this is important not just for DA readers, but for others (such as educators and students) on the ever changing rules and non-rules, and the pitfalls of the internet. Also, Anderson Cooper interviewed Brutsch for CNN in case anyone is interested:

  61. 2012.11.02 – The Soapbox: The Amazon Review Crackdown, and Konrath Fails Again | S. V. Rowle
    Nov 03, 2012 @ 13:57:45

    […] month where authors or their anonymous supporters have doxed reviewers for critical book reviews or selling finished copies — in other words, not ARCs — to used […]

  62. By the Numbers: An Analysis of the Reviews Deleted in the Goodreads Policy Change | Soapboxing
    Oct 02, 2013 @ 22:32:47

    […] the charges of owning child pornography, downvoting campaigns instigated by authors or agents , the doxing of reviewers by authors, down to just a bunch of dumb stuff authors occasionally say out loud. I have already written at […]

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