THE DOXXING PARADOX
Here’s a piece that discusses the current status of anti-doxxing laws. Doxxing is the practice of publishing a person’s home address and other identifying information online in the hopes that people will flood that person with unwanted attention.
The experience of Tanya Gersh, described in the article, is fairly typical. Ms. Gersh got under the skin of Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the Daily Stormer, who published Ms. Gersh’s phone numbers and email addresses online. That led to an onslaught of abuse, including death threats.
So the question is, what to do about this phenomenon? As the article notes, some states have attempted to criminalize the conduct, while others have created civil remedies. And some states have existing laws prohibiting cyberstalking that could arguably apply. Ms. Gersh, a Montana resident, invoked the Montana Anti-Intimidation Act and ultimately obtained a $14 million judgment against Anglin.
Ms. Gersh’s experience, and the broader issue, however, beg the question whether statutes that somehow penalize publishing true, publicly available information, can withstand a First Amendment challenge. Ms. Gersh’s case may be a relatively easy one — it’s clear that Anglin acted maliciously.
But what about people who publish contact information of a public official, in the hopes that people will let that official know where they stand on proposed legislation? That sounds innocent enough, but some deranged folks could use that information to send death threats or otherwise harass the public official. Is the person who published the information in the first place a doxxer?
The First Amendment typically protects the publication of truthful, publicly available information. While the person who actually sends a death threat has no First Amendment protection, the person who merely points the way may have a case. We’ll see if states can thread this needle, but it may be tricky.