You may have noticed a peculiar word popping up more during your internet scrolling the past few days – doxxing.
Doxxing could affect anyone, from everyday private citizens to public figures and celebrities. We’ve seen examples of it all lately as "doxxing trucks" have hit major college campuses, and in the escalating feud between Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion.
Here is what it means to "dox" someone and how it may or may not be considered a crime:
What is doxxing?
One word will help you remember what doxxing means – documents.
Doxxing, sometimes written as doxxing, is a shortened version of "dropping dox", which is a slang, shortened version of documents.
The documents released can either be private or public record, but are released without consent in a malicious way as to typically harass, threaten, shame or exact revenge.
"Doxers aim to escalate their conflict with targets from online to the real world, by revealing information," according to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.
According to Kaspersky, this information can include:
- Home addresses
- Workplace details
- Personal phone numbers
- Social security numbers
- Bank info
- Private correspondence
- Criminal history
- Personal photos
- Embarrassing personal details
Or, in one case that’s caused the term to trend again online, personal information such as where a family member is buried. That’s one of the alleged actions taken in the recent online feud between rappers Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion.
Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion feud
As the feud between the two rappers escalated, Nicki Minaj's fans, known as the Barbz, doxxed the location of the cemetery where Megan Thee Stallion's mother is buried, TMZ reported.
Some of the Barbz leaked the location and encouraged others to desecrate the grave after Megan allegedly dissed Nicki's family in her recent song called "HISS".
Students at universities across the country have been targeted by so-called "doxxing trucks," which are part of an "accountability project" by the nonprofit conservative news media watchdog Accuracy in Media (AIM).
AIM is sending what they call "mobile billboards" to campuses across the country where it has deemed outbreaks of antisemitism have occurred since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
"We’ll be sending the billboard trucks to these places, naming and shaming those who spout these vile views," the group said in a Jan. 30 press release.
The group didn’t elaborate in its press release on what the "vile views" are or how they select who’s included, but the group mentioned past instances of a Harvard professor who "signed on to Israel being an apartheid state" and students at Columbia who belong to the groups Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.
The information that has been "doxxed," in the cases reported by the campuses, have been, at the least, student names and photographs. The info is displayed on the mobile billboard, which have been coined "doxxing trucks," as they drive around campus.
Is doxxing illegal in the U.S.?
In short, the answer is no.
"Releasing publicly available information is more of an ethical issue rather than a legal one, Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who wrote a book tied to the topic, told The Associated Press.
No federal laws explicitly involve doxxing, though many associated acts such as stalking and harassment are covered and could be linked to the situation.
Though, some states are beginning to take up doxxing at a local level.
For example, under a Nevada bill passed in 2021, a doxxing victim could file a lawsuit against someone who shares the victim’s personal information online with the intent to aid criminal offenses ranging from death to harassment.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.