If you haven’t heard, journalists are being threatened in new ways – unthanks to social media. It’s called doxxing. When the target of negative news coverage (or even neutral news coverage) gets miffed, there are plenty of ways to get even. In the tepid Megyn Kelly interview recently with Donald Trump, she mentioned the practice jokingly – but not by this particular name.
What is doxxing?
Doxxing is when someone doesn’t like what’s been reported, published or broadcast and shares that opinion as widely as possible – along with a journalist’s direct contact info – such as mobile phone number or home address.
Kelly, during an interview clearly dictated by ground rules, joked with Trump about potentially releasing her cell phone number to his growing ranks of followers on Twitter. He reassured her with a pat answer: “I don’t want you to worry.” @trealdonaldrump has more than 8 million followers on Twitter – and growing. @megynkelly has 1.7 million.
I heard similar tales from two working journalists and one former journalist here in Indy. Some actions resulted in restraining orders. Others were managed one-on-one in personal interactions or through management directives. One shrugged it off – knowing that social media can make or break a reputation.
It doesn’t matter whether a journalist is doing a biting consumer story unveiling fraud or simply writing a restaurant review. The heightened potential for someone to simply “go off” on a reporter in multiple ways is the new wave of social media terrorism aimed at anyone in media or any media outlet.
Why should I care about media threats such as doxxing?
Doxxing is being documented by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Poynter, a journalism training institute, is now advising reporters how to be safer and smarter online. In the wake of assaults, national news organizations are training media how to deal with violence that looks for press to target at candidate rallies.
That’s not good news for the rest of us – because accessibility should be a two-way street. That means a citizen should have access to news media as much as a reporter should have access to the public’s thinking in order to accurately tell a story.
When threatening reporters becomes a standard “thing” with a name attached, it’s a threat to truth telling. And we all lose.