Photo courtesy of iamWire.com | “Cara” (name omitted to protect identity) was “doxxed” over the summer. Doxxing occurs when a person has their personal information leaked online. It came to attention in the 2014 “Gamergate” controversy, where two women who were advocating for more female representation in video games had their private lives exposed to the public.
As Cara recalls, it was a beautiful mid-summer day. She was on her way to Dunkin’ Donuts to catch up with a friend when an odd Facebook message caught her eye.
Usually, she wouldn’t answer, but the messages were persistent and the person was claiming to have important information. He started flinging insults, calling her a “w****” and saying she gave Bernie Sanders’ supporters a bad name. He then proceeded to send her screenshots of a conversation she had with a man on the dating site OkCupid, including intimate photos she sent the man she was talking with.
“When it happened you know, heart drop, fear, can’t talk, wanting to cry, showing my friend the messages, her suggesting ‘let’s go back to your house, we need to tell your parents,’” Cara said.
“Nobody wants to admit to their parents ‘I agreed to casual sex, I agreed to send photos.’ All of this stuff is happening, and it’s also political.”
Cara had been “doxxed.”
Doxxing is when a person’s personal information is leaked online, typically on forums or social media. It has been used recently to oust White nationalists at rallies in an attempt to get them fired from their jobs and alienated from friends and family. This tactic, however, is neither new nor exclusive to ousting White nationalists.
Originating in the hacker community, doxxing was a way to get revenge on other hackers by exposing them to the community, which was largely anonymous. It gained somewhat more mainstream notoriety after the “Gamergate” controversy, when female journalists and gamers who advocated for more female representation in video games were doxxed in the fall of 2014. Most infamously, female game developer Zoe Quinn and gamer and actor Felicia Day both received death threats and had their home addresses put online. These threats largely originated and were disseminated on sites like 4chan and Reddit.
Both sites are known for attracting a wide audience.
What Cara experienced was much more random, yet it was nonetheless a targeted attack. She later found out that the people who doxxed her were Trump supporters from 4chan who made fake dating profiles on OkCupid, posing as Black men. This claim could not be independently confirmed by the Newswire.
She said the people who were out to get her were looking for Bernie supporters that were in relationships. She stated on her profile that she was polyamorous and in a relationship. She included #bernie2016 on her profile.
“I had found out that the person with the fake profile had sent copies, or screenshots, of all of the photos and all of the conversations to everybody on my Facebook friends list,” Cara said. She thought to herself, while the messages were coming in, “I’m not going to, but I understand why people kill themselves over this kind of thing… It really is so severe, it really f**** with you, it f**** with you so hard because you can’t hide anything at that point.”
Local police stations rarely deal with cybercrime, but Cara thought she would give it a shot.
“I went to the police office first to see if they could do anything about it, and they basically told me ‘you’re out of luck, the Internet is the Wild West,’” Cara said.
It was months until someone hacked the thread on 8chan — a subset of 4chan — and removed all of her information, in addition to other threads. Others are not so fortunate. Their information is still floating around on forums with no end in sight.
There are steps people can take to protect their identity online. Downloading Tor Browser, which bounces your IP address among different destinations, makes it hard to track your actual location. Other steps include privatizing social media and hiding information like your Snapmap on Snapchat.
Even with these precautions, Cara warns that if someone wants to doxx you, even the most careful of persons can do little to prevent it.
“It’s just a fact of having the Internet. It’s just going to be a consistent threat,” she said. “If somebody doesn’t like you, and they’re good enough, they can find your info, and they can doxx you.”
By: Savin Mattozzi ~Copy Editor~