What is Doxxing, and what can you do if it happens to you?

News Excerpt: 

Doxxing allows abusers and criminals who are thousands of miles away to target victims by putting their private details online for others to exploit.

What is doxxing?

  • According to the International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication, doxxing is the intentional revelation of a person's private information online without their consent, often with malicious intent. 
  • This includes the sharing of phone numbers, home addresses, identification numbers and essentially any sensitive and previously private information.
    • E.g., Personal photos could make the victim identifiable and potentially exposed to further harassment, humiliation and real-life threats, including stalking and unwanted encounters in person.
  • Doxxing can also expose the people who live or work near the victim, increasing the affected person’s chances of being evicted or fired.

Why is it called doxxing?

  • There are multiple etymologies for the term, but according to the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, the term doxxing came from the phrase "dropping documents", and gradually", documents" became" dox", which has been used as a verb to refer to the practice. 
    • Originally a form of online attack used by hackers, the firm wrote that doxxing has existed since the 1990s.

What to do if doxxing happens to you?

  • Report the incident through the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal in India
  • You have a legal right to file an FIR (First Information Report) for doxxing.
  • Report the incident to the respective social media platforms:
    • Since social media companies operating within the country are bound by India’s IT Rules, submitting a cybercrime complaint is one way to make sure the platform is forced to take action quickly.
    • Platforms such as Meta are aware of the need to protect users who have been doxxed,
      • Facebook and Instagram should have stricter rules concerning incidents where data such as home addresses are leaked online.
    • Google also has tools in place to assist people who have been doxxed.
      • It allows Internet users to submit removal requests that it then reviews for further action. 
        • Google owns YouTube, so one can directly report any content posted there.
    • X has an in-app reporting mechanism for private information, 
      • A grievance officer whose job is to take action based on such reports
    • Reddit provides a complaint forum as well.
  • Messaging platform Discord updated its community policies by separating the doxxing and harassment guidelines. 
  • Ensure your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is removed from the internet and secure your accounts.
  • Build a support system with friends and family to help you through the process.
    • Don't feel ashamed or weakened, especially if you are a targeted group like women or LGBTQIA+.
  • Have a self-care plan to deal with the emotional distress caused by doxxing.

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