The story so far: Meta’s oversight board, in a blog, suggested Facebook and Instagram to make strict doxxing rules. It urged Meta to consider doxxing as “severe,” that should prompt temporary account suspension. It has asked Meta to implement strict regulations on publishing and sharing personal information like an individual's residential address that can easily identify people and make them targets for those with malicious intent.
What is doxxing?
Doxxing is publishing and analysing others' personal information on the internet with a malicious intent that can reveal the person's real identity making them victims of harassments and cyber attacks, according to security firm, Heimdal security.
The firm highlighted how doxxing is used to shame or punish people who would rather stay anonymous, because of their controversial beliefs or other types of non-mainstream activity. It reckons that most of us are careless with the information we share on the Internet, that cybercriminals can use to find out our real identity and harass us.
The security firm has highlighted a few instances of doxxing. A journalist made critical comments about the content of a popular Instagram account. The admins of the account retaliated by posting the journalist’s private information including her name, her address, phone number, her partner’s phone number etc. She was incessantly harassed and bullied until she took legal action.
In another incident as outlined by Heimdall security, a Facebook user suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after her secret photos were posted on an infamous website. By the time she realised what had happened, her pictures were seen by almost 24,000 people. Her Facebook inbox was filled with soliciting messages from unknown men and some of them even dropped by at her address posted by the doxxer on the website.
Why is Meta's oversight board concerned about doxxing ?
The board noted that publishing private or identifying information of an individual like their residential address and images on Meta's platforms with malicious intent can lead to harassment or stalking.
Doxxing can result in emotional distress, loss of employment and even physical harm or death, the board said. It recommended Meta to remove the exception that allows the sharing of private residential information when it is considered “publicly available.” It has asked the Facebook-parent to allow sharing of private residential addresses only when posted by the user to promote charitable causes, find missing people, animals, objects, or for contacting business service providers. By default, users should be considered not to have given such consent. Meta must ensure that users have a quick and effective mechanism to request the removal of private information posted by others, the board said. It has also highlighted the need to create a specific communications channel for victims of doxxing, easily available to both people who use Meta's platforms and those who do not. This should allow the victim to explain their situation and the risks the illegally posted content creates for them, and prompt swift action from the company. Meta should prioritise action when the victim says they belong to a group facing heightened risk to their safety in the region where the private residence is located, the oversight board noted.