THE BRIEF

How a “prank” has led to the leaking private information, SWAT teams invading homes, and the death of an innocent man.

DEEP DIVE

As information is shared more quickly and readily online, safety is an important issue. doxing and swatting are forms of online harassment moving into the real world. Measures can be taken to reduce the risk of doxing and swatting.

What is Doxing?

Doxing is the (usually illegal) sharing of someone’s personal information. It is typically done online through hacking or internet research.

Motives for doxing include harassment, trolling, political agendas, and revenge. The hacktivist group Anonymous is particularly well known for using doxing as a tool for online vigilante justice.

Instances of doxing include Logan Paul‘s careless doxing of Post Malone, the identification of many Ashley Madison users, the public naming of undocumented students, and the doxing of white supremacists by anti-racist activists.

Doxing is not only harmful, but in extreme cases can lead to swatting, hate crimes, and other acts of violence.

What is Swatting?

Swatting is the act of making a false 911 call so that a SWAT team shows up at someone’s house. Swatting can be extremely dangerous and has even led to the death of an innocent man in Kansas.

Swatting is a popular “prank” in video game communities. With the rise in popularity of online streaming platforms like Twitch, people have been doxed and then swatted while live streaming, creating a dangerous spectacle.

Why this is a concern:

Victims of swatting and doxing have included activists, members of hate groups, abortion providers, internet trolls and social media celebrities. Any person with an internet presence, big or small can be doxed or swatted. Individuals who have been wrongly or mistakenly accused of crimes or unpopular behaviors have been targets of doxing and swatting. Children of politicians, celebrities and others have been doxed in some cases. This extreme form of doxing is illegal as it deals with children’s information.

Recently, journalist Shaun King reported that someone made a false report to Child Services, giving his information and saying that his children were living in an unsafe environment. King was likely targeted because of his active presence on Twitter and outspoken political views.

How to prevent doxing and swatting:

Techniques to prevent doxing include setting strong passwords and never posting personal information, especially addresses or phone numbers on social media sites. Googling yourself and your children to see what comes up can give an idea about the availability of your sensitive information, photos, etc. Practices of blurring out addresses, license plates, and phone numbers in videos, photos, and screenshots are common courtesies used to help prevent doxing. Check the safety and privacy settings on your social media accounts.

Talk to your kids about the dangers of swatting and doxing, and the importance of online safety and privacy.