What Is Doxxing?

Doxxing is a harmful act that can result in severe consequences for the victim, including physical threats to their well-being. Social media platforms should be held accountable for the harm to users who were exposed on their platforms while believing they were safe.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines doxxing, or doxing, as publicizing private information, most often as a form of punishment or revenge. The term is slang for documents or doc-dropping. Doxxing is a type of cyberbullying that attempts to use personal data to harass or intimidate the victim.

According to Safe Home, approximately 21 percent of Americans have been victims of doxxing, a total of 43 million people. Social media platforms have not done enough to stop this dangerous practice.

What type of private information do doxxers expose?

Doxxers may expose the following personal information on social media, the dark web, or any other public venue where this information would not normally be publicly known: 

  • Real name
  • Home address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • School attended
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • Medical information
  • Pictures and videos
  • Where you work
  • Your race, ancestry, or country of origin

Examples of Doxxing

Tanya Gersh is a Jewish wedding planner and real estate agent in Montana whose life was turned upside down in 2016 when the editor of a Neo-Nazi publication published her personal information, including her phone numbers, email addresses, social media profiles, and the social media profile of her young son.

She received death threats and continual harassment for months and suffered severe health effects and panic attacks as a result of the stress. She received threats at work, and her son’s school was forced to tighten its security. 

Although she successfully sued the perpetrator, she has been unable to collect the damages. The impact on her life has been overwhelming. It has essentially ended life as she previously knew it.

High-Profile Victims of Doxxing

According to Ranker, several celebrities were victims of doxxing during a 2013 cyberattack, including the following:

  • Kim Kardashian
  • Jay-Z and Beyonce
  • Donald Trump
  • Lady Gaga
  • Michelle Obama
  • Paris Hilton
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Joe Biden
  • Tiger Woods
  • Al Gore

This doxxing attack revealed highly personal information, including the following:

  • Social security numbers
  • Credit reports
  • Home addresses
  • Billing statements
  • Previous addresses
  • Nude photos

In 2011, a group of hackers affiliated with Anonymous published the personal information of 44 Los Angeles police officers, including email addresses, names of family members, online resumes, home values, and phone numbers. 

The group claimed this was revenge for police treatment of protesters. However, many of the officers doxxed were not involved in the specific raid referenced by the perpetrators.

How do doxxers get personal information?

Doxxers gain access to personal information through a variety of methods, including the following:

  • Phishing
  • Catfishing
  • Hacking
  • Combing through social media accounts
  • Public information websites
  • Data miners

Teens are easy targets of doxxing due to their tendency to overshare on social media, even with people they have recently met online.

Some doxxing attacks come from people well-known to the victim. They could be friends or acquaintances seeking revenge or using doxxing as a form of cyberbullying in hopes of raising their own social statuses. Doxxing is closely related to another form of cyberbullying known as “outing.”

The Consequences of Doxing

Doxxing has permanent consequences because information published on the internet cannot be fully unpublished. Even if a malicious post or website is removed, the information was likely screenshot, copied, or otherwise archived by thousands of users who can simply publish it elsewhere. 

Being doxxed can be a frightening experience that threatens your teen’s personal safety and possibly the safety of your family and your child’s peers. The threat of doxxing can be used as a form of extortion to extract sexual favors, money, or other benefits from the victim.

People who are doxxed are subjected to the following forms of abuse, intimidation, and humiliation:

  • Online and offline harassment
  • Public shaming
  • Lost friendships
  • Family harassment
  • Distribution of embarrassing photos
  • Harassment at work or school
  • Loss of job
  • Physical threats
  • Identity theft
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Verbal abuse

Despite the adverse effects of cyberbullying in this manner, only 66 percent of doxxing attacks are reported to authorities.

Why do people dox?

The most common reasons teens dox other teens include the following, according to Safe Home:

  • Conflicts
  • Comments or posts the doxer dislikes
  • Gaming disputes
  • Revenge
  • The joy of stirring up trouble

Is doxxing illegal?

There are no federal laws specifically against doxxing in general. As of 2021, approximately 11 states had laws against doxing, but most focus on protecting people in specific occupations, such as health care workers, law enforcement, and government employees.

Although doxxing is not specifically illegal, if the information was obtained illegally, illegally spread, or spread with malice, it could violate other civil and criminal laws. This includes laws against identity theft, harassment, stalking, or cyberstalking.

In California, doxxing may be illegal under California’s laws against harassment, which include the following:

  • Intentionally placing another person in reasonable fear for their safety 
  • Causing a person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment
  • Electronically publishing or emailing personal identifying information for the purpose of inciting unlawful actions

Florida’s anti-bullying law includes cyberbullying, defined in Florida statutes as bullying through electronic communications. Any systematic and chronic infliction of physical or psychological injury constitutes bullying according to Florida statutes. This includes threats, intimidation, harassment, stalking, and public or private humiliation.

Several states have cyberstalking and anti-intimidation laws that could potentially be used to prosecute doxxing. An attorney can best determine whether the laws of your state apply.

Which social media platforms are susceptible to doxxing?

Doxxing happens through all types of online communication, including virtually all social media platforms. Often doxxers find information by combing through the victims’ information on multiple social media platforms, which ask for a significant amount of personal data while establishing profiles.

If your teen is going to be doxxed, it will most likely occur on one or more of the social media platforms your teen uses most often.

Reddit has well-known rules against doxxing, but the site has a notorious track record of refusing to moderate or remove illegal content. Doxxing is prohibited on most social media platforms, but there have been no concerted efforts by any platform to curtail this practice. 

In February 2022, TechCrunch reported that Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, received recommendations from its oversight board to tighten its policies to more effectively prevent doxxing. Currently, the company allows publicly available information about individuals to be posted.

Can doxxing be prevented?

Doxxing is not 100 percent preventable. It may be due to one post, comment, or conversation your teen was involved with online, which may have seemed innocuous at the time. It could occur as a result of an offline interaction or even something that happened in the distant past. In some cases, it could stem from jealousy.

Your teen cannot avoid all forms of conflict, but there are measures you and your teen can take to prevent cyberbullying attacks such as doxing.

  1. Use a virtual private network while online so hackers cannot access their location.
  2. Use two-factor authentication or passwordless login types, such as biometric identification.
  3. Encourage your teen to avoid controversial posts and arguments online.
  4. Talk to your teen about the risks associated with becoming an influencer.
  5. Encourage your teen to connect only with people they know in real life rather than having thousands of friends or connections. 
  6. Use a burner email account for signing up to sites.
  7. Avoid adding your name to the properties in apps.
  8. Conduct research on yourself to see what information about you is available online, a practice known as self-doxxing.

How will I know if my child has been doxxed?

Doxxing is a severe form of cyberbullying. If your child has been doxxed, you may notice the following signs in your child’s behavior

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Avoiding school or leaving early 
  • Reduced academic performance
  • Detachment from friends or activities previously enjoyed
  • Withdrawal
  • Anger
  • Self-harm 
  • Suicide attempts

If large numbers of unknown people show up at your home to harass or threaten your teen, this is another sign your teen is a victim of doxxing. You may also notice increased phone calls or texts. If you suspect your teen has been doxxed, ask your teen directly if this has occurred, offer to help, and assure your teen it is not their fault.

What can I do if my child is the victim of doxxing?

If your teen experiences harassment, threats, identity theft, stalking, or other repercussions, notify law enforcement. Depending on the information published, you may need to protect financial data, notify your child’s school, and request police patrols around your home. 

If possible, take screenshots of the offending post. Document any resulting harassment you experience and record dates. Make your social media sites are secure and change your passwords. 

If your teen’s social security number has been disclosed, report the incident to your financial institution and the three major credit bureaus. Although your child may not yet have credit, it is not uncommon for identity thieves to use teen social security numbers to establish fraudulent accounts.

If your child does have a credit report, you can place a security alert or credit freeze on the credit file to prevent identity thieves from applying for credit in their name.

Contact a Social Media Attorney

If you believe your child has been harmed by the effects of doxxing or any other type of cyberbullying, contact the Social Media Victims Law Center today for a free and confidential consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

For individuals and children who have been

We only handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we are paid a portion of any recovery obtained in the case and you do not owe us any attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit does not result in a recovery.

Every case is unique. Our attorneys will work with your family to evaluate your potential case and help you evaluate whether filing a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is in your family’s best interest. Generally speaking, the types of cases we handle involve serious mental health effects, including attempted or completed suicide, eating disorders, inpatient mental health treatment, or sexual trafficking/exploitation that was caused by or contributed to through addictive or problematic social media use by teens and young adults.

We are a law firm based near Seattle, WA comprised of lawyers who have spent their entire careers representing victims who have been harmed by dangerous products. We are also parents. Shocked and troubled by the recent revelations about the harm caused to teens and young adults by social media platforms, which powerful technology companies have designed to be highly addictive, Social Media Victims Law Center was launched specifically to help families and children who have suffered serious mental harm or exploitation through social media use to obtain justice.

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