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Anti-Doxxing Laws: A Growing Trust & Safety Concern

June 28, 2021

The term ‘doxxing’ is popping up more and more, in the news and in conversations around online behaviors. The Australian government, US government, California, Colorado, Oregon, Connecticut, Hong Kong, and Nevada have passed anti-doxxing laws. We expect many more states and countries to follow suit, as a year of heavy Internet usage has focused the attention of citizens and lawmakers alike on the real-world problem of digital-world threats.

What does this mean for Trust & Safety professionals? Let's break this down.

What is doxxing?

‘Doxxing’ refers to ‘dropping docs’. It is a type of online behavior that happens when when a person or organized group researches a target, collects personal and private information about them and releases it publicly. This information may include personal email, home address or phone number, photographs, place of employment - any sensitive information that can be released with malicious intent.

Impact of doxxing laws on T&S

Most of the anti-doxxing laws that are currently being passed pave the way for fining and jailing perpetrators. At this point, none hold the social platforms accountable, even if they may have been the sources of the doxxing information.

How to prevent doxxing

Regardless, social platforms are layering these tactics to help prevent their users from experiencing doxxing.

  • Blocking Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
    • Many platforms have built or purchased solutions that prevent PII from being posted. Unfortunately, it isn't hard to get around these controls, which is why layering tactics is the best approach.
  • User Controls
    • Giving your users control over how their posts are shared can help them keep sensitive information out of the hands of doxxers.
    • This may include a solution warning users when another person may be trying to solicit doxable materials from them.
  • Behavior Analysis
    • Predicting doxxing via harassment:
    • Doxxing is sometimes connected to harassment and stalking. Detecting harassment online can be tricky; it can look like flirting in a dating app and look like trash talking in a gaming chat. Recognizing this, platforms are tuning up their harassment models
  • Doxxing grooming:
    • Those phishing for personal materials may befriend targets to do so. An AI solution that can identify this behavior early on can nip it in the bud.

The Value of Doxxing Prevention

As we mentioned, none of these laws hold platforms accountable as the sources of doxxing materials. So, why bother protecting your users from doxxing?

There are a number of reasons that companies should care about doxxing beyond legal and regulatory compliance. Doxxing has caused people to leave their jobs, flee from their houses, and remove children from schools. Physical assaults and swatting (false police reports) have occurred as a result of doxxing. In an extreme case, an airplane was diverted and forced to land as the result of a doxxing event.

  • Brand Reputation
    • Should it come to light that doxxers found materials on their victims on your platform, users may start to associate your platform with risk. The downstream effects: slower growth rates, increased disengagement, risk to monetization.
  • Cyber Citizenship
    • If you can help your users avoid being harmed, why wouldn’t you?
  • More legal compliance
    • As online harms increase, more legislation will be introduced
  • Trust and Safety matters
    • By removing one of the most damaging forms of online abuse, you are protecting your community from being harassed and threatened.

Even if the consequences of current legislation are focused on the individuals that perpetrate the doxxing rather than the platforms where it happens, it is still a critical concern for platform Trust & Safety. Incorporating thoughtful, layered doxxing prevention strategies into Trust & Safety initiatives can help create safe online communities, protecting your audience and your brand.

Download the eBook What is Doxxing, and Why Does It Matter?

Resources:

Doxing Definition: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doxing

Anti-Defamation League announcement of the Connecticut law:
https://connecticut.adl.org/news/adl-backed-anti-cyberstalking-bill-signed-into-law-by-connecticut-governor-lamont/

Nevada Law passed:
https://lasvegassun.com/news/2021/apr/13/quash-online-harassment-nevada-anti-doxxing-bill/

Australian online Trolling laws
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-15/new-laws-esafety-online-abuse-penalties-trolling/100217376

Anti-Stalking Law,US Code 2261A
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2261A