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article imageOp-Ed: Reddit bans alt-right dox factory subreddits

By Paul Wallis     Feb 3, 2017 in Internet
Sydney - Reddit has removed two alt-right subreddits which were publishing a lot of private information. This is doxing, and it’s legally very questionable, as well as unethical.
One of the more annoying/worrying elements in this mix is reported by the Independent, which cites information that one of the people doxed was allegedly responsible for punching an alt-right white supremacist “leader” called Richard Spencer. The inference is that the subreddits were targeting opponents of the alt-right, but there’s no hard information which proves that allegation.
The removal of the two alt-right subreddits is straightforward. Reddit’s user agreement and content policy couldn’t be clearer. It specifically bans the publication of “private and confidential” information. There are multiple reasons for this type of content policy, not least of which are the legal nukes which are possible.
Doxing is a legal gimme for litigants. Forget the so-called immunity of the Internet. There’s no such thing and never has been, regardless of jurisdiction. Defamation, threats, you name it; they’re just as illegal online as anywhere else.
The risks of doxing to those doxed are quite real, too. During the truly sickening Gamergate persecutions of female gamers and game critics, many were seriously threatened, and some actually had to move home and hide. Gamergate was also blatantly supported by Breitbart and other alt-right sites. The pattern was repeated on the subreddits.
In fairness to Reddit, they’re also backing up their principles and the Reddit culture. They’ve been totally consistent about removing people who breach their rules or otherwise offend. Reddit has always been one of the most ferocious sites online, and is respected accordingly.
Defeating doxing
The other side of the equation is whether the alt right dox factory will simply go somewhere else. If it does, it opens up more than legal issues. The Internet can react to attacks on its freedoms, but like the fire brigade, it’s after the damage is done.
Automated real time data monitoring, however, isn’t hard. It’s relatively simple to write code which extracts anything which might be private information. Names, addresses, streets, etc. are pretty easy to read for even basic software. Given that Reddit and other popular sites, even Facebook, have a big logistic task to monitor sites in real time, it’s about time someone put this type of software in place.
I saw over 10 years ago a site which refused a Latin expression, summa cum laud, on the basis of the word “cum”. Meaning the site had a dictionary and the ability to read in real time. Time to use that as a weapon against doxing? Looks like with the alt-right, it is.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Reddit, reddit user agreement, reddit content policy, doxing, Gamergate
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