dark mode light mode Search

Opinion: Time For A Federal Anti-Doxxing Statute

Yesterday, The Guardian published a doxx of a well-known anonymous right-wing personality, “Lomez.” Lomez has been influential on X dot com, where he has 70,000 followers at the time of writing, but his importance extends beyond just posting xeets. His article explaining the concept of “the Longhouse” was published by First Things and widely praised. Most importantly, he is the founder and owner of Passage Press, a small publishing house which publishes not only classics, but also contemporary right-wing authors, as well as (horrors) fiction and poetry. For example, Lomez is the publisher of figures like Steve Sailer and Curtis Yarvin–people who many people may disagree with on many issues, but who are doubtlessly intelligent and important contributors to public discourse.

It should need no mentioning that pseudonymous writing and publishing is a great American tradition, dating back to the Founders themselves, and that it contributes to a healthy public square. (And if people disagree, asking why someone would need a pseudonym to write online, ask them how they feel about academic tenure.)

It is also important to note that right-wing discourse on social media is laced with irony, humor, in-jokes, such that it is easy for any social media personality to pluck a xeet or a phrase out of context and make them look like some sort of horrible person. As Voltaire wrote, “give me six lines by the hand of the most honest man in the world, and I will find material in them to make him hang.”

Most importantly, people should be aware that the purpose of “doxxing,” except in very limited cases, has nothing to do with journalism or the public interest, but is instead designed solely to hurt people, their family and loved ones, for having the temerity of engaging in free thought, and to do so in a systematic, organized way.

The pseudonymous writer Dr Bennett explains this mechanism very well: “Journalistic doxxing in its purest form is a kind of ‘dead drop’ — the delivery of a bland intelligence product from one organ of state security to another. The only reason to broadcast this intelligence product on a public media outlet is: To create the legal pretext for an enforcement action by Lomez’s EEOC-accountable employers, investors, etc.; To suggest the threat of violence by regime irregulars (mentally ill antifa goons).; To activate whatever social consequences can be created for Lomez and his family”

The point is to cause “consequences” and “accountability”–of the kind that go beyond the reputational harm that legitimate speech can cause.

In this era, doxxing is part of an organized system whose purpose is legal and extra-legal intimidation, including the threat of violence. While it would be delusional to see shadowy government agencies behind every dox, it is also the case that they can sometimes use this method to go after troublesome individuals, which is a form of government repression of speech. The author of the Guardian piece is connected to intelligence agency cutouts and to Antifa thugs.

The nexus of politicized government agencies, activist NGOs and activist pseudo-journalists, loose-standards journalistic institutions desperate for any “scoop”, social media mobs, civil rights legal liability, and organized thugs like Antifa, has created a new situation, and given birth to this new system, whereby doxxing is, always in intent and sometimes in effect, no longer something on the order of the merely unpleasant, but a tool of personal destruction and intimidation.

All of this means that doxxing is not a form of legitimate speech. It is, on the contrary, an organized system of repression of free speech, and therefore using government action to counter it would increase, not decrease, free speech.

It’s time to criminalize doxxing at the Federal level.

There are already state-level statutes punishing doxxing, but no Federal level statute.

FIRE, the organization protecting campus free speech, disagrees in a good article providing a nice overview of existing law, but while FIRE is a wonderful organization doing great work, and their commitment to a maximalist understanding of free speech is laudable, their arguments in this specific case are not convincing.

They point out that “the First Amendment protects much offensive, obnoxious, and even repugnant speech.” This is true, but the argument is not that doxxing is repugnant, though it is. It is that it is part of a system of organized intimidation.

FIRE also writes that “[e]xisting law already covers much of the unprotected expressive conduct often associated with doxxing via statutory protections against true threats, incitement to imminent lawless action, harassment, and the privacy tort of public disclosure of private facts.” At the risk of engaging in tautology, we would retort that if doxxing was already illegal, it would already be illegal. Clearly, pseudo-journalists who engage in doxxing campaigns fear no legal repercussions, and not just because of lax enforcement of existing statutes. Which in turn clearly shows that there is a legal loophole that must be filled.

So, what should a Federal anti-doxxing statute look like?

H.R.6478, the Interstate Doxxing Prevention Act, makes “it a crime to use the mail or any facility or means of interstate commerce to knowingly publish (or attempt or conspire to publish) personally identifiable information of another person with the intent to threaten, intimidate, harass, or stalk, and as a result, place that person in reasonable fear of death or seriously bodily injury to that person, or to that person’s family member or intimate partner.”

This would be a good start, but we feel that two key provisions must be part of any future anti-doxxing bill:

  • Since doxxing is part of an organized system, there must be RICO-like penalties for those who collaborate in and facilitate doxxing: sources, paid private investigators, government employees leaking information obtained through covert means, and so on.
  • Penalties for doxxing should be faced not only by individuals but by institutions that publish doxxes. The laundering of the information through a “legitimate” news outlet is a key part of the process, to boost its placement in search engines, to make it legally actionable, and so on. We recall from the public disclosures on the FBI’s investigation into Donald Trump that an apparently-common method of “hacking” the due process system was for government agencies to leak their suspicions to a press outlet, and then use the ensuing article from “a legitimate source” as a way to prove “probable cause” to a judge and obtain more investigative powers. So-called reputable journalistic institutions must pay a cost for using whatever credibility they may have in this way, and must be deterred from doing so in the future.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *