Doxing: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Doxing:  The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

By:  Jason L. Van Dyke, Esq.

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Doxing (also spelled doxxing) means “to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge.”  It is not necessarily a new phenomenon and has been a tool used for cyber-harassment and terrorism by the computer “hacktivist” community for a number of years.  I, myself, was on the receiving end of such an attack following my representation of a young college student who had been brutalized by a group of online sexual predators that previously ran a revenge pornography website known as PinkMeth.  This article addresses the legality of such attacks, the potential legal ramifications, and how to respond if you become a victim.

Doxing typically takes one of a number of different forms when conducted online.  The first method typically used by Antifa and other criminals is online impersonation.  This occurs when a person uses the name or persona of another, without their consent, to create a website (or social media profile) or send an electronic communication with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person.  This is typically done in an effort to harm the individuals personal or professional reputation through the use of a social media profile or website claiming to be associated with a person who it is not.  Due to the problems that can naturally result from this conduct, this offense is a third degree felony in Texas and punishable by 2-10 years in prison with an optional fine of up to $10,000.00.  The intent element of the offense italicized above is key to proving up the commission of the offense.  A website or social media account that is clearly intended as parody or satire – especially with respect to a public figure and in cases where a disclaimer is properly displayed – is unlikely to run afoul of the statute.  However, depending upon the content, it may run afoul of other laws (e.g. copyright infringement).

 Doxbin, run by computer terrorists Intangir and Nacash, was one of only two non-commercial websites shut down by law enforcement in Operation Onymous. 

Doxbin, run by computer terrorists Intangir and Nacash, was one of only two non-commercial websites shut down by law enforcement in Operation Onymous. 

The more common method of “doxing” occurs when a person simply releases information that is specific to another person.  This is not specifically addressed in the portion of the code related to computer crimes because the relevant statute is commonly used to prosecute all types of identity theft (whether it occurs online or not).  The statute is relatively simple: “A person commits an offense if the person, with the intent to harm or defraud another, obtains, possesses, transfers, or uses an item of identifying information of another person without the other person's consent.”  As with the online impersonation, the context of the possession is relevant.  If such information is possessed or distributed for solely for the purpose of harassment (as would likely be the case of Antifa who attempt to “dox” a Proud Boy) it would be a violation of the statute.  The range of punishment for this offense is different from the online impersonation statute and depends on a variety of factors.  However, the offense is at a minimum a state jail felony punishable by 180 days to 2 years in prison with an optional fine of up to $10,000.00.

It is of particular importance to note that not all attempts at “doxing” constitute a violation of the law.  This is because there is some information about us that is a matter of public record.  It would not, for example, be unlawful to publish a person’s name and address because information pertaining to the ownership of real estate is typically a matter of public record in Texas.  Fortunately, the statute has a very wide definition of identifying information, which is defined as: “(A) name and date of birth;(B)  unique biometric data, including the person's fingerprint, voice print, or retina or iris image;(C)  unique electronic identification number, address, routing code, or financial institution account number; (D)  telecommunication identifying information or access device; and(E)  social security number or other government-issued identification number.”  Yes, you read that correctly.  In Texas, it’s a felony to possess a person’s name and date of birth if you us, or intend to use, that information to defraud or harm them.

 Doxing is one of the preferred tactics of the shadowing computer terrorist organization known only as "Anonymous" 

Doxing is one of the preferred tactics of the shadowing computer terrorist organization known only as "Anonymous" 

We now know that the act of doxing someone is a felony in Texas that can lead to a felony conviction, large fines, and prison time.  The unfortunate truth is that many police and prosecutors view doxing as a civil matter rather than a criminal one.  This is good news for the Proud Boys: it means that Antifa who engage in doxing can be successfully sued in Texas.  It is also bad news, because responsible parties can be difficult to identify and, if the conduct occurs online, most judges are loathe to enter restraining order or injunctions directing social media companies or website owners to remove specific content.  This means that, once the cat is out of the bag, it’s really fucking hard to put it back in.  I was doxed by terrorists in 2014, and since that time, I have sued all three credit bureaus along with countless banks, credit unions, and credit card providers in an effort to stop the continuing attacks. 

If you are a victim of doxing, it is absolutely essential to gather as much information on the attack as possible.  You will want to know where the attack happened, what websites it has spread to, and as much information about your attacker is possible.  This may assist your attorney in using pre-suit discovery to ascertain the responsible party (or parties) so they can be held accountable.  This is process is difficult at best and it’s critical that your attorney have as much information as possible.  A wise attorney will often advise you to sign up for an identity theft protection service such as Lifelock, or at the very least, a credit monitoring service such as Credit Check Total.  I recommend the later of the two to all of my clients because staying on top of your credit is important for everyone (that will be the subject of a future article).  Repairing damage of this nature is a time-consuming process and the money you pay an attorney to help you navigate the credit cesspool is well spent.

 Doxing is a felony in the State of Texas.  In addition to fines and prison time, it can also be the basis of a civil lawsuit.  

Doxing is a felony in the State of Texas.  In addition to fines and prison time, it can also be the basis of a civil lawsuit.  

I will conclude this article with a word of caution.  There are three things in a man’s life that you absolutely don’t fuck with: his family, his home, and his job.  Since this is Texas, I would also add his dog to the list.  That having been said, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of ways to fight the Antifa without resorting to illicit tactics like doxing.  Whether you’re a part of the Texas Proud Boys or another chapter around the country, please remember the following:  We aren’t here to defeat the Antifa – we are here to crush them.  We will be successful because we are better than they are.  The reason we don’t dox them is because we stand up for the law while they scoff at it.  So, if you (or a brother) becomes a victim, your best course of action is to let the lawyers handle it……but to remember just how contemptible these people truly are the next time you lock shields with them.  Uhuru!

Jason L. Van Dyke is licensed to practice law in Texas, Colorado, Georgia and Washington D.C.  He has been practicing in the areas of criminal defense, debt collection, and real estate law for ten years.  He is a member of the Texas chapter of The Proud Boys and lives in Crossroads, Texas.  The views expressed in this article are general in nature and should not be used as legal advice for any specific situation.