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Doxxers may hope online shaming leads to justice, but is that what they get?




A computer screen showing a Facebook page on May 10, 2012.
A computer screen showing a Facebook page on May 10, 2012.
Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images

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A Long Beach college professor could lose her job after being identified in an online video in which she allegedly told an Asian American couple to "go back to their home country."

The video was posted on Facebook by the male half of the couple, Tony Kao. Kao said in his post that he was on a walk with his wife and daughter when a white woman made the comment. His wife then took out her phone and started filming.

Kao has since said he posted the video as a reminder to treat people respectfully, regardless of race or ethnicity. He also said he didn't intend to damage the offender's personal life or career. However, others online soon discovered who she was and revealed her identity as well as her workplace, a practice known as doxxing. 

Now, Golden West College professor and counselor Tarin Olson has been placed on leave for the next two weeks.

tarin olson vid

Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at New York University, joined Take Two to talk about people doxx others — and the ramifications.

McCoy said his research showed the main motivations for doxxing are revenge or justice. Doxxers who are seeking justice see exposing another person's perceived hateful behavior or affiliation with a hate group as a fair action.

"Normally, the end goal to encourage other people to harass the victim," McCoy explained.

Online harassment is the most common repercussion for those who are doxxed but we're seeing more cases where people have faced consequences at work or lost their jobs, McCoy said.

In some extreme instances, people will call 911 with a fake emergency, like a hostage situation, so police will arrive, a practice known as swatting.

Since doxxing happens online, McCoy said doxxers may not realize the harm they cause. Even if they think they are achieving justice, doxxers may be sinking to the level of hate they see in their victims.

"This [doxxing] just leads to this vicious cycle of attacks and hate," McCoy said.

As a society, we now have to deal with the ramifications of heavy surveillance and what can result from that. Cameras are readily available on smart phones and other devices, and it's easy to record something and post it online. Now, we have to figure out how to deal with that.