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to dox or not to dox

October 13, 2012

I honestly don’t know much about Reddit, but I thought this article was interesting, particularly the subject of anonymous free speech and how far people’s identities should be protected.

It seems that a longtime poster/moderator, who pushed the boundaries of free speech by posting racist, misogynistic, pornographic, etc. material under an anonymous screen name while championing the site’s ‘free-speech culture,’ was recently outed by a reporter for Gawker. And it appears that many members are coming to his defense since, “To them, the ‘doxing’ of Violentacrez—’doxing’ is hacker slang for publishing someone’s personal information in order to intimidate or punish them—is an assault on the very structure of Reddit itself.”

But should tolerance always be tolerated? Or should society make a distinction between what should be tolerated and what should be discouraged or suppressed? Should we tolerate racism, for example, or should we confront it whenever and wherever it rears its head? Should we allow people who promote racist ideology to remain anonymous, or should they be exposed?

It reminds me of when local anti-fascists out the identities of local neo-Nazis, posting their personal info online and all over town, and the questions it raises about privacy, free speech, and tolerance. At first, I was uncomfortable with the idea of outing someone’s identity and releasing their personal info simply because you don’t like the things they’re saying; but the more I think about it, the more it seems like an effective tactic in countering what Herbert Marcuse called indiscriminate or repressive tolerance, which serves to minimize or absolve prevailing intolerance and suppression, and a potential consequence of exercising one’s free speech, especially content that promotes things like hatred and violence, or sexually exploits minors.

To me, the main moral of this story is, if you don’t want to be associated with the things you’re expressing, maybe you shouldn’t be expressing them because the world is filled with people who make it their duty to bring to light what’s hidden in darkness.

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