Is Doxing a Free Speech Issue?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Bowser, Aug 16, 2016.

  1. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    So I have been defining the limitations for my new forum, which only define three things...

    I came across a video on youtube where a guy was arguing that doxing is part of free speech, and that it should be allowed. My personal opinion, doxing is an attempt to do personal--potentially physical-- harm to another individual. For that reason I don't want it on my forums. However, I am struggling with this idea, wanting to be as liberal as possible with the concept of an open forum.

    I'm very open to the idea of a free market of ideas, but doxing seems way to dangerous and would stifle the open dialogue, in my opinion
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  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Unless this 'guy' is a role-model of yours, it doesn't much matter what he thinks.

    Do you think that allowing members to publish private information about other people, possibly damaging or destoying lives - is acceptable in the name of free speech?
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  5. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    It wouldn't help at all. And I personally detest the idea of doxing. I think it's a rotten thing to do. But on the other hand, I have defined my forum as a free speech forum. I won't change the limitation, but was curious whether other people felt the same about the issue. I'm wondering if it will detract from the forum or encourage more open dialogue.
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  7. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Some things I note are absent from your list.

    What will you do when it gets hijacked and turned into a hate speech soapbox?
    I suspect you are being naive if you don't think the forum will become a lightning rod for hate speech. It is illegal in a lot of the world, so providing a safe sanctuary where anonymous people can post without oversight will bring them to your door. Your original vision of a bastion of free speech will be lost in the greter agenda of the users you are enabling, and it will come a beacon of supremacist and racist propoganda.

    To clarify: I am not judging or disapproving, just providing feedback.
    PhysBang likes this.
  8. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I'm curious what logic is needed to link doxxing (the posting of a target's private personally identifying information) with free speech (the expression of one's own views).

    Perhaps that could be the first topic on your forum:
    "Convince me that doxxing falls under free speech, and I will allow it."
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    By the way, are you considering the legal implications of such a forum? You will be are allowing illegal activities to take place. You can claim you are not legally accountable, but you're almst certainly going to be do that in a courtroom with a defense lawyer. Can you afford a lawyer?
  10. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I'm interested in how this turns out for you.

    You see, I had been experimenting with starting a forum for a very (very) narrow form of openness (essentially road rage). I abandoned it because I decided the risk for legal action was not worth it.

    So, you are taking a road I feared to travel.
  11. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    Free speech is a means, not an end.
  12. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    I'm assuming that such speech will attract opposing views. It will be open to all people and all opinions. Again, my vision is to create a marketplace for ideas. I don't want to limit the conversation with my own bias views or impose restrictions to accommodate my own ego. I think that might be my issue with doxing; I really believe it a terrible practice; yet it is not, as far as I know, illegal. Nonetheless, I feel a responsibility to protect the privacy of others.

    As far as legal liabilities, I think it's worth the risk. Also, I don't own anything, really, so there isn't much to lose. Also, offering a platform to the general public is not, in my opinion, a crime. I've considered the speech laws of other countries; however, they can't touch me in any way. The worst they can do is block my site, which they have done to others.

    It's an experiment, for sure. I'm not certain where it will go. One ideology might dominate the forums; or maybe, I hope, it will become a hodgepodge of ideas.
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    What I'm predicting is that extremists will take it over (because they are not welcome most other places).
    Opposed-minded people will avoid it in droves. No rational person would seek out a forum of hate speech, thinking they can have a discussion.
    And it's a positive feedback loop. The more extremists arrive, the more moderates will leave, until it is virtually all extremists with an axe to grind.

    I'm not trying to be a Debbie-downer, just presenting likely scenarios for consideration.
  14. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    I appreciate your thoughts on the issue. If my URL was, it might be a magnet for such. I'm hoping that the general spirit of the site will be inviting to all walks of thought. We will see where it goes. If it does turn into a one-sided ideological bent, I suppose I would just surrender it to the patrons and let them manage it.
  15. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Free speech is about the free exchange of ideas. Free speech is supposed to be about the message, not about the messenger. When it starts to get personal, the object of the game is to attack the messenger, so their message appears to become subjectively altered or subjectively invalidated. This is not rational, since the properties of a person is separate from a valid line of reasoning. Solving a math equation; math logic, is not dependent on how tall you are, or whether your shoes are on backwards, or whether you had an affair. Math and logic follow rules separate from people.

    For example, if Joe is winning an argument, based on sound data and good reasoning, John might try to insult him, by saying he is wearing two different color socks. John is trying to lower the prestige of the messenger; Joe, as though wearing two different colored socks, invalids his line of reasoning. In a rational world, there is no cause and affect between logic and socks. However, the insult will attempt to make the situation emotional and irrational, to lower Joe's prestige, to subjectivity invalid the truth he is speaking.

    The term hate speech is not a message, but it attempts to attack the messenger. There is no consistency in terms of how hate speech is defined, so it applies to all, equally. Rather the definition is subjective and its applicability appears to be divided down political party lines. If members of black lives matter says all police are murderers, this is not called hate speech, even if they hate cops. If the cops say the same thing, jokingly, then it applies. This is not rational. The goal is to subjectively censor free speech by attacking the messenger. This is doxing, even though it is given a pass.

    The irrationality, that subjectivity binds message and messenger, is what is called prestige. If you were a musician, who has a hit single, which makes you rich, all of a sudden your opinion means more, even if your ideas have not changed. The prestige of the messenger increased due to their new wealth and position. Many people will then assume their message means more. This is irrational, since prestige, does not solve a math equation.

    Doxing sort of makes use of irrational connection between message and messenger, but attempts to reverse the direction of the messenger's prestige, so even a valid argument does not appear to count. This is not good for free speech, since the free exchange of ideas can become bottlenecked by emotions.

    Before the idea of free speech, the validity of one's opinion was based on the prestige of position; wealth and might were right. If the King said X, you better not question this, due to his position and prestige. This was not rational because good ideas can come from everywhere, and has nothing to do with prestige. Doxing tries to make things go back to a form of class system, with the induction of, no-class, meaning you have no valid opinion. This destroys the free exchange of ideas.
  16. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    It is quite possible to express hate speech on a soapbox to the world, regardless of the opponent in the debate.
    It's not an attack on the messenger; it's propaganda - for anyone who will read it.
  17. Bells Staff Member

    It doesn't matter what you call it. Build it and they will come regardless.

    We have had people posting child pornography on this site, not as spammers mind you, but fairly long time members, who discussed paedophilia like it was a good thing and then posted links to child porn sites, containing images of small children and discussing how sexually attractive these children are. We have had others post adult porn, right wing 'let's kill black people' types, pretty much any extremist you can imagine, we have had come through here. We have had people threatening suicide, leaving the staff to scramble to contact the police on a few occasions for that and other reasons. On a science forum.

    It doesn't matter what you call your forum. You will get people who post illegal activity or promote illegal activity on your website. If you do nothing about it because it's not child porn or doxing and leave everything else, you could find yourself and your website hosting things that you will not want to be hosting because it could land you in a lot of trouble, legally speaking.

    You cannot hide under the banner of free speech on such occasions. Free speech will not protect you when it is something illegal.

    For example, I notice your rules say nothing about intellectual property. Which is astonishing in this day and age, and frankly, could see you get into a lot of trouble, legally, if you do not manage it appropriately and have clear boundaries and act accordingly.
  18. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    Based on that, it doesn't appear to me that you understand what "freedom of speech" typically is/means. It doesn't mean people can say anything they want. There are limits when speech may or can harm others.

    If you are really hoping to broaden the concept beyond what it typically means, then I agree with the others that you are being naive. Worse, you may be opening yourself up to liability for the consequences of that naivete.
  19. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    Well, right now it's just me and my sock puppets, so some company would be welcomed. But seriously, I will need to tackle those issues as they present themselves. I did leave myself the right to delete any post for any reason within the terms of service during signup. Though I don't want to use the heavy hand of authority, I'm ready should the extreme need arise.

    Child porn aside, what else might we define as illegal speech?

    I have been wrestling with the copyright issue. As it stands, members can't upload attachments to the server. And I don't see a problem with linking to outside sources. But I do think it's a serious issue to be considered carefully. You are right.

    Thank you for your post, Bells. Very insightful.
  20. Bowser Right Here, Right Now Valued Senior Member

    I suppose it depends on the actual harm being done. Don't get me wrong, I don't advocate doxing. But simply posting someone's address, phone number, employer, doesn't necessarily incite people do act on that information in a negative way. On the other hand, if someone was to solicit ohters do act on that information for the purpose of causing harm, then you would have a legal issue, in my opinion.

    Why is it that I can publish the home address of a public figure, such as Tom Cruise, but not that of any other individual? I've seen doxing in the past. One such instance was the home address and phone number of a Westboro Baptist member. If it's somebody we dislike, does that make it anymore justifiable?
  21. billvon Valued Senior Member

    In my experience, that is usually the intent. It's gotten people in trouble (and even fired) on other forums I frequent.
    No, just gives you a better excuse. "Well, someone else did it first so it's already out there."
  22. Bells Staff Member

    I don't think you quite understand the seriousness of the issue. For example, have you looked at the terms of service from your internet provider, to make sure that what you are hosting is not going to breach their rules? How about State and Federal Laws?

    It isn't a matter of being the heavy hand of authority. It is about ensuring you (and any future members) are legally protected. Just claiming free speech is not going to cut it.

    Oh where do I even begin...

    Advocating crime, hate speech could be illegal where you are or where your internet provider or web-hosting address is. Incitement.. Pornography, is another example, is it legal pornography? Since this is a free speech site where everything but child porn goes, have you considered that people may use your site to post illegal porn - as in posting images illegally (such as rape porn, where people film rapes and then post them online). Or how about copyright laws? How will you deal with stalking and harassment? Threats?

    But there is nothing in your 3 rules about it. You need to be quite specific.

    Just linking outside sources is not enough. You need to check. For example, some sites will not allow any material from their site being copied and pasted elsewhere without explicit permission. Usually you can copy and post a small percentage of a webpage, or study, for example and cite it.

    Saying that people can post what they like so long as they keep within those three rules, says and does nothing about informing people what they are legally allowed to post and how. It's not so much about freedom of speech, it is about ensuring that people posting on your site are not breaking the law in doing so, which leads to making sure you are not breaking the law in hosting it.

    Rules on forums work more as a guide, informing members and the public, as to what one can post, as well as what is banned.
  23. Bells Staff Member

    Doxing is also illegal.

    You might think it is not harmful or classify as inciting others to act on the information. But doxing itself is illegal, because it would fall under stalking/cyberstalking laws, as well as harassment laws. I would check State and Federal laws where you are. You might think it is harmless or depends on the actual harm being done, but the very act of stalking someone to get that personal information is illegal.. Because it is stalking.

    Well, you actually cannot publish the home address of a public individual without their consent. Doing so is illegal. That same rule applies to a public or famous individual as it does to a 'private' individual.
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