Typically carried out by anonymous online users with axes to grind and little to lose, doxxing involves making someone’s private information public. That includes home addresses, phone numbers, financial histories, medical records—anything that can be found in the endless databases available to canny hackers.
Doxxing can be a drive-by prank on most anyone who draws attention. But more often its targets are singled out for humiliation. An example: GamerGate, in which certain active video gamers targeted journalists, mostly women, who had criticized the outright misogyny found in many popular video games. The backlash began with the bilious insults that have become astonishingly common online. But it quickly escalated to “revenge blogs” purporting to reveal those journalists’ past indiscretions, and doxxing attacks.
Or when the identity of that dentist who killed Cecil the Lion was posted?
Or that man who was wrongly identified as the Boston Marathon bomber?
These were all examples of how making someone’s personal, and sometimes private, information public on the internet led to intense harassment.
Today, each of the cases could easily be termed a form of doxxing — short for “dropping documents.” In the last few years, doxxing has increasingly been used as an online weapon to attack people. People’s “documents” — records of their addresses, relatives, finances — get posted online with the implicit or explicit invitation for others to shame or hector them.