Can't stop the signal. August 7, 2017 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Can we please either discuss or determine what guidelines we should be following for doxxing / revealing personal info about the subjects of linked content in a thread?

In the current Google doc thread there was a lot of speculation about whether Google was protecting the anonymous author's identity and if so, why. His name was revealed in a comment last night.. A mod commented 23 minutes later, which implies that was ok. People then noted that his Facebook and LinkedIn are publicly available and discussed details from at least one of those sources.

We've all seen the awful negative effects of what happens when doxxing is done with malicious intent, or to the wrong subject. And cortex has previously explained how Metafilter treats linking to a site that doxxes people.

But this is a bit different. I'm honestly not sure where this particular incident stands in a doxxing "hierarchy," so to speak or if it even matters. The guy's name was revealed. Is that a big deal? Is it really doxxing if he (as reported) originally signed his name to the document? The commenter clearly had no malicious intent but rather intended to help stop the rampant speculation in the thread. Plus the guy's name had already been made public by Vox Day. Would really appreciate a mod's input explaining where you all stand on this.

Also, regardless of this one incident, this could be a good opportunity to discuss how revealing otherwise anonymous personal information of linked subjects might best be handled on MeFi in the future, if the community and mods are willing.
posted by zarq to Etiquette/Policy at 7:46 AM (95 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

This is a weird one, is my basic read. I was following the discussion yesterday and the conspicuous absence of the name of the apparently-not-trying-to-be-anonymous author of a thing that blew up has been one of the odd threads running through it. My general inclination is to say if there's a solid chain of effort to not reveal someone's identity, that's a good reason to continue not to do so, so in that narrow view I'd have preferred here that it not come up in the thread until it was unambiguously public knowledge.

But this is sort of a strange circumstance where it's mostly been third parties acting unilaterally to quell that info—Gizmodo declining to identify the author on a piece of writing the author signed and that a bunch of people with intra-Google access were privy to creates a weird ambiguous space. The fact that the name was being circulated widely without any real doubt by critics and proponents alike makes it harder for me to look at that comment last night as someone intentionally/maliciously breaking an identity wall in the way that we more generally consider problematic in site policy.

Basically: it doesn't have the shape of doxxing where doxxing is a meaningful attempt to go after someone's identity or presumption of anonymity in speech. It's a weird situation, I have mixed feelings about it, but it's not the kind of clear case of intentionally unearthing some anonymous person's identity against their implied or expressed wishes on which conversations we have about this sort of thing usually focus.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on August 7 [10 favorites]


I wondered about this complex example too... Not sure I know what I think is "right".

I also feel pretty uncomfortable with the pile-on tone in that thread: There was just this weird chunk of the thread where Miko noted the man's immaturity and a whole pile of people took her comment to mean that she was excusing the writer. I didn't take it that way at all, and I suspect at least some of the folks who piled on her hadn't closely read her comment. But it's like a competition to see who can burn the hardest.

I find subject of the original post to be an apparent shithead, emblematic of the endemic culture of racism and sexism at google. But earlier in the thread it seemed like someone was suggesting I was 'railing against PC echo chambers '. It felt surprising to me as a women who's daughter goes to a tech school - as someone who lives in the Bay Area and is frequently filled with rage at the tech industry's obvious racism. I think people had a valid critique to make of my comment: and some people made that critique in a way that I could respond to (I questioned if the guy should be fired. Many people pushed back, some for reasons that made sense to me. But it was weird that I also got jacketed as someone who would want to fire progressives at work. I mean, the reason I hesitate about firing this guy is I wonder if that would subject me to being fired for expressing my progressive politics at work)

I don't know, I'm torn. I understand anger and I don't think we should always be polite in our criticism: respectability is actually killing us right now. But I think the urge to be the Most Right without always reading or taking a moment to think can have a really shitty angle too. I'm not sure there's a clear answer on the specific question of releasing this guy's name: I guess I personally lean toward thinking it's OK in this context, but I do think there's something that is problematic about this thread.
posted by latkes at 8:01 AM on August 7 [19 favorites]


I feel like in this particular case the dude's name was already out there by the time it was revealed over here and he was never more than semi-anonymous at best so it is what it is. My view is that MeFites shouldn't be the ones going out there trying to uncover the identities of anonymous people (even anonymous assholes) but that once the cat's out of the bag on the wider internet, it's kind of silly for us to pretend otherwise.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:20 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


> But earlier in the thread it seemed like someone was suggesting I was 'railing against PC echo chambers '. It felt surprising to me as a women who's daughter goes to a tech school - as someone who lives in the Bay Area and is frequently filled with rage at the tech industry's obvious racism.

I was pivoting off of a response to your comment to make a point about the larger set of people who are defending the manifesto, or at least saying that it shouldn't be a fireable offense. If I wanted to make a point about you in particular, I would have responded directly.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:26 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Like a lot of people, I'm not ever thrilled with throwing somebody's name out there, no matter how big the asshole. Not sure this is the best test case for that though, since I'm about 98% positive this is the kind of asshole who is going to start writing screeds in his own name somewhere very soon, probably framing himself as a victim.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:27 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Also, just a general preemptive nudge here: it's okay if there are other metafilter-centric things that folks need to discuss about that thread, but let's avoid having this just turn into a parallel version of it. There's a lot of stuff mixed up in the core situation and it's been a contentious and busy thread and I don't want us to just do the whole thing again here; that thread itself is still open.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:30 AM on August 7 [5 favorites]


I think I would rather that we wait to name the guy until he was named in a reputable news source. I know that it's generally acknowledged by people on Twitter that it's him, but it just seems like there's potential to mess up and cause harm. I think I'm less strongly anti-doxxing than some people here are, so it's less a doxxing issue and more a how-to-handle-unverified-breaking-news issue for me.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:55 AM on August 7 [15 favorites]


Thank you, cortex. That was what I figured, but it's good to have both the mods' perspective about that thread explained as well as what y'all look for in these situations.

Not sure this is the best test case for that though, since I'm about 98% positive this is the kind of asshole who is going to start writing screeds in his own name somewhere very soon, probably framing himself as a victim.

True.

I'm honestly conflicted by this case. I think doxxing is dangerous as hell and I can't in good conscience support it. But at the same time having his name out there means women and PoC can avoid having to ever work with or otherwise interact with a misogynistic racist. It may even prevent him from gaining a position of power over people he clearly, obviously thinks of as inferior.

I don't see why they didn't fire him immediately.
posted by zarq at 9:06 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Not sure this is the best test case for that though, since I'm about 98% positive this is the kind of asshole who is going to start writing screeds in his own name somewhere very soon, probably framing himself as a victim.

You know this is exactly what he already did, right? His name was removed by the news outlets sharing the piece more widely.
posted by Dysk at 9:08 AM on August 7 [14 favorites]


I think I would rather that we wait to name the guy until he was named in a reputable news source.

I think that is a fair metric. But, honestly, I don't know why he hasn't been outed. He used his account to post an unfortunately juvenile screed to employers forums. It's not as though he tried to be anonymous.

Besides, dude works at google and doesn't know how to secure his accounts ? Classic petard hoisting.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:14 AM on August 7


I feel like finally revealing his name, in this case, was less harmful than it might be because it changed the status quo very little. He might get a lot of nasty messages over LinkedIn or Facebook, but he has no public persona to defend, no public projects to be evicted from, his employer is already known and in trouble for his employment, and Mefites generally aren't about heading out to actively harass someone. Basically, knowing his name changes the dynamic in this instance very little.

I'd prefer Metafilter never lead or even participate in the effect of doxxing, but I'm fine with revealing information that's already known.
posted by fatbird at 9:15 AM on August 7


Mefites generally aren't about heading out to actively harass someone

This is a thing that has happened in the past, so I wouldn't be so sure about that (I’m aware of at least two occasions that would meet that threshold by my reckoning, there are probably more).
posted by pharm at 9:22 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Agreed, Pharm. We're in general a good lot, but we are still "teh internet"
posted by French Fry at 9:24 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


That, and not everyone reading mefi is a mefite. Pretty much everything is visible to any Internet yahoo browsing past.
posted by Dysk at 9:27 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


While I'm sure there are good exceptions, my general feeling has always been that 1) we should apply the same doxxing standard that we do to people who are already members here. Treat people as if they could be members at some point. It's a high bar, but I think it would work well to encourage carefulness. We've had times where we've regretted what we've said about people who end up visiting here, and I think it's because it's easy to create a mental division between "people here" and "people out there." Encouraging an attitude of privacy protection in general, beyond our walls, is not a bad value. And 2) we should try to apply a standard consistently, without trying to find (many) justified exceptions, lest the whole world finds excuses to doxx everyone else for perceived moral vices. This second one is just an issue of pragmatics and long-view protection of all of our identities, not that everyone deserves to be handled with kid gloves or hasn't done anything that is worthy of more public scrutiny. I think we apply a similar standard in a case like this not necessarily because an deserves it, but because we all value it for ourselves.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:28 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


My problem with revealing his name is that I'm still not sure that we've verified that it's him. I think it's probably him, because Googlers aren't coming forward to dispute that it's him, but they don't seem to be coming forward to say anything (to a really weird, eerie degree.) People who are generally trustworthy are saying that it's true, but I guess that I want someone to say "I have seen the original screed" or "I have talked to three independent people who have seen the original screed" or otherwise to explain their process of fact-checking his identity. And I haven't seen that yet, although maybe I've missed it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:28 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I'm down with outing google guy but I'm a bit skeeved by outing college students who support trump in twitter.
posted by bq at 9:32 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Google has strong IP clauses in it’s employee contracts & a history of enforcing them. No Google employee is going to go on the record confirming or denying this guys name without the explicit & direct permission of Google management. It would be a firing offence.

They're not quite as internally secretive as Apple though. I suspect Apple would have PIs trying to track down the individual who had leaked the document to Gizmodo right now purely for the principle of the thing.
posted by pharm at 9:34 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


I was quite surprised that when the name dropped here that it wasn't deleted. I was personally satisfied that it was the right person, but it didn't seem to meet the modding standards here.
posted by Yowser at 9:37 AM on August 7


I don't think that standard American journalistic practice would require it to be on the record. I think that two or more off-the-record sources is sufficient. But you have to show your work: you say "I know this is true because two Google employees verified it off the record." On the other hand, you'd have to figure out how to do that without Google being able to figure it out. Don't use your Gmail to contact them, or Google Maps to find the meeting place, or.....

Eek. Google really does have too much power, doesn't it?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:38 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


By default, Google Maps knows your location at all times—not just when you're actively using the app to navigate. Ditto umpteen other location-aware apps, plus your phone's actual operating system. Doesn't matter if you're using their stuff, they can still track you quite easily.

Rule 1 of not being tracked is Leave Your Phone At Home. Period. I wouldn't even trust it if it's turned off.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:44 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Not sure this is the best test case for that though, since I'm about 98% positive this is the kind of asshole who is going to start writing screeds in his own name somewhere very soon, probably framing himself as a victim.

You know this is exactly what he already did, right? His name was removed by the news outlets sharing the piece more widely.


Oh yeah, I didn't phrase that great; I meant somewhere else like Breitbart for bucks if/when he gets fired. But your point absolutely stands.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:51 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Hey, I'm the one that posted the name that "everyone's floating as the author". I thought long and carefully about it; the name was widely whispered within hours of the story breaking on Friday. I didn't want to share it because I can't personally verify authorship. (And still can't.) I also find doxxing repugnant and didn't want to get anywhere near it.

I only posted the name because it was widely being shared online; tweets, Vox Day blog posts, etc. (Mostly the name is being shared by misogynists, interestingly.) Meanwhile the Metafilter discussion was falling behind and weird. Some people were posting with full knowledge of who the guy is, talking about his educational background, etc. Other people had no idea the name was out there, or else were thinking he was intending to be anonymous. Then we got folks speculating about about Google index fluctuations, playing guessing games on the name, etc. It felt like the discussion had gotten surreal and Metafilter was behind what's out in public. So I put the name I'd seen everywhere out there, to unify the discussion. (My apologies to the moderator whose life I made difficult.)

I'm a former Google engineer and even though it's been a bunch of years I still feel some connection to that community and culture. A key thing about this post a lot of people have missed; it was not shared anonymously inside Google. It was posted publicly inside the company with his name on it. Thousands of Google employees saw it. It was intended to be an internal communication, so private in that sense, but not a true secret shared with just a few. And enough Googlers were upset that it spilled out in public.

I deliberately did not post links to LinkedIn profiles, Facebook, or other ways to doxx someone. I think that kind of behavior is dangerous. I'd rather not see detailed personal info shared and debated on Metafilter unless a person invites that themselves by being a public figure. In this case I think his educational and professional background is relevant to the discussion, but I'm not comfortable even discussing it because it feels like an invasion of privacy. Folks can find that info for themselves if they want.

It's an awkward and ambiguous situation.
posted by Nelson at 10:06 AM on August 7 [29 favorites]


Concur on the 'weirdness' of the thread that Nelson mentions. We were basically going out of our way not to use his name, in a very artificial way. It was like a mixture of a weird performance of ignorance mixed up with some kind of... like deference or courtesy that was starting to feel like implicit approval.
posted by danny the boy at 10:20 AM on August 7 [5 favorites]



Is naming someone who has become news now considered doxxing? This is a serious question. It worries me that 'doxxing' seems to becoming this broader term that ends up making the word mean less.
I understand that being careful about not naming someone until it's verified is prudent. This guy whether he intended it or not became news. He also apparently did not do under a pseudeonym. This is not the case of people hacking and philtering though information and clues to figure out who a person is. It's also not searching through all of their personal info and posting name, address, emails, phone numbers, relatives etc. That is doxxing. Or at least is was doxxing.

I don't have an issue if the policy is not to name people like this but please, this is not doxxing someone.
posted by Jalliah at 10:20 AM on August 7 [19 favorites]


I think it was pretty lousy of nelson to make the comment in question. I think it was VERY lousy of jadepearl to comment as they did in follow-up. I know it's their house and their rules, but I'm nonetheless very disappointed in the moderator decision to leave either comment up, for the plug nickel that's worth.

There's a saying: "If you get down in the mud with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig likes it." I'm seeing this trend of behavior in a lot of places where people justify all sorts of behavior to themselves because in their eyes the other side is just. that. villainous. The thing is that when you do, you just end up looking bad and end up distancing potential allies.

Having read it, and being the lonely kind of dude this was crafted for, I think the creed this dude posted is MRA bullshit that was likely crafted by an semi-autistic worldview and probably a lot of personal pain.

I know that regardless of their cause, MRAs cause career damage and personal pain wherever they go, that they're often in positions of power, and that this behavior needs to be dealt with on a systemic and group level, from positions of activism.

I think it's nonetheless an incredibly lousy thing to do to dig up the guy's name, name him in the thread, and then have someone say two comments later, "You knoooooow, he does happen to have Facebook and LinkedIn .... *innocent whistling*".

And I think in a group record going back a decade-plus of excellent moderator decisions, leaving either comment up was an execrably bad one.
posted by WCityMike at 10:22 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


Also, as the guy in the thread who has 'a friend' considering working for Google and asked for the name privately (but also had it corroborated by like a zillion other sources hours later)... I think about why my natural instinct was to give him that courtesy of shielding his name. And it makes me think, uncomfortably, of how sexual aggressors are well known in circles of women but their name never publicly spoken for fear of... lots of things.
posted by danny the boy at 10:29 AM on August 7 [21 favorites]


Is naming someone who has become news now considered doxxing?

Generally no, at least by MeFi's working definition, but generally when someone has become news so has their name. The odd intersections between newsworthiness and privacy are I think where all the sticky bits are. When there's a cat and a bag and people aren't really sure if (a) the cat is inside or out and/or (b) if they're looking at the right cat or the right bag, that's where it's complicated. And that's where most of the friction comes in between a desire for prudence and respecting anonymity and a de facto it's-not-a-mystery availability of the info in question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:31 AM on August 7 [10 favorites]



Oh come on. That someone, in this day and age has a Linkedin or FB is hardly comment that even needs saying. This isn't doxxing. It's hardly saying much of anything. Linkedin and FB are public (with various levels of personally chosen security) but they are not hidden. There is no (or shouldn't be any expectation of absolute privacy with these). Anyone that has the inclination to do something more about this guy doesn't need to be informed oh you know he does have a FB. Those places are the first places people would look.

Now if someone comes and comments or he's 'such and such handle' on this forum, and this handle over here and oh he has anonymous twitter account with this handle then it's getting into doxxing territory. Public facing social media that is put up under your own name and people finding it is hardly 'doxxing' when people find it. IT IS DESIGNED TO BE FOUND.
posted by Jalliah at 10:33 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Generally no, at least by MeFi's working definition, but generally when someone has become news so has their name. The odd intersections between newsworthiness and privacy are I think where all the sticky bits are. When there's a cat and a bag and people aren't really sure if (a) the cat is inside or out and/or (b) if they're looking at the right cat or the right bag, that's where it's complicated. And that's where most of the friction comes in between a desire for prudence and respecting anonymity and a de facto it's-not-a-mystery availability of the info in question.

Thanks. I agree when someone like this becomes news that being careful about verifying it is important.
posted by Jalliah at 10:36 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Yeah to me doxxing is going out and specifically linking someone's name online with their real life name, details, personal info and etc. (often with the intent of other randos online harassing them). It's tough because mods can't always be expected to know when someone's name has become "public knowledge" or not, but usually I think erring on the side of fewer details actually in-thread (as opposed to linking) seems prudent to me as a non-mod.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:37 AM on August 7 [13 favorites]


It would be doxxing if he had shared this under a pseudonym.

Of all people, a damn Google engineer whose whole spiel revolves around how smart you have to be to do his job should know what emailing stuff from an identifiable account means.

Or are we relaxing this standard as well?
posted by Tarumba at 10:39 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


, I think the creed this dude posted is MRA bullshit that was likely crafted by an semi-autistic worldview

You fucking wot mate?? That's some grade-ableism right there.
posted by Dysk at 10:44 AM on August 7 [34 favorites]


There’s no evidence that the author ever intended to be anonymous within Google: My understanding is that he wrote a shared Google Doc that was visible to anyone inside Google with his name on it.
posted by pharm at 10:45 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I'm currently sitting about one thousand miles from Google HQ. I've never worked there. I don't know anyone who ever has. I suspect these "distances" likely speak for the vast majority of other Mefites. I guess this is my way of saying, whoever this guy is, it's none of my business. It's my business that he said some deeply disturbing stuff (and I'm glad this story has gotten out Google's closed internal loop), but as to who he actually he is? Why should that concern me? It's tangential at best to the actual news item, and thus a sidetrack that doesn't seem to serve anything positive.
posted by philip-random at 10:50 AM on August 7


Dysk: "You fucking wot mate?? That's some grade-ableism right there."

You're completely right on that one. My brain was reaching for a word for "disconnection from the world", and I ended up choosing a very poor word choice. Thank you for appropriately calling me out on that, and for the poor word choice, I do apologize.
posted by WCityMike at 10:53 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


It's the ideas about what autism means that were wrong there, not some phrasing...
posted by Dysk at 10:58 AM on August 7 [11 favorites]


I'd like to thank Nelson for writing a thoughtful, well-explained reasoning behind their comment, which feels like a rarity on the grey in situations like this.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:58 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


"Why should that concern me?"

This concerns people I care about, even if I don't know them. Publishing the name of this man increases the chances that he will be held accountable and maybe see some consequences for discriminating against my people.
posted by Tarumba at 11:00 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


I think the rule should be "was the thing that was done, done publicly?". Here, the answer is no.

Would this discussion be the same if this person worked for a fifty-person company with an intranet? The discussion exists only because the person is a google employee. All I can say is that if I wrote a document that resided with my employer, and my name was then all over the internet, I would feel doxxed. What about others? Is Google so big that it's a utility and everything should be public? Hey, that sounds good to me, but as it stands now it ain't.

The argument that "it's out there" is odd, because there is no such thing as a debate about passing on personal information for which "it's not out there" is true. If we're having the discussion, the doxxing information is out there, and the only question is whether MetaFilter wants to play along. I had always thought that Mefi's correctly strong principle of staying out of the doxxing game was indeed a principle, having nothing to do with pragmatic measurements of the broadness of distribution of the private name—so long as the individual remains a private individual, not having given an interview to a web site or appearing on Fox News or whatever.
posted by sylvanshine at 11:02 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Google knows who he is & any immediate consequences will spring from them, so I don't see how spreading his name is helpful to anyone & risks the kind of witch hunt that no one should be on the receiving end of, but it's a bit late for that at this point.

It’s kind of weird that it’s the right-wing blogosphere that’s latched onto his name: did they think they could have more control over the narrative if they leaked it first?
posted by pharm at 11:06 AM on August 7


I assume they're building him up as a Martyr To The Cause.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:09 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


I also appreciate Nelson's reasoning. I think the name should have been deleted, though. We shouldn't want to be 'caught up' with the rest of the Internet if the rest of the Internet has moved onto mobbing someone.
posted by michaelh at 11:10 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


this should really go on the blue, but yeah, the right-wing is preparing for this guy to be fired so they can prop him up as a hero
posted by Yowser at 11:15 AM on August 7


Dysk: "It's the ideas about what autism means that were wrong there, not some phrasing..."

Dude, I really don't know what to say. I admitted that my brain saying "disconnect from the world" = "autism" was a fuckup and sincerely apologized for it. If you want to keep pointing out how much of a fuckup it was post-apology, or if you doubt the sincerity, or whatever you want to do, that ball is in your court: I really don't know what else I can productively do further from my corner.
posted by WCityMike at 11:15 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


All I can say is that if I wrote a document that resided with my employer, and my name was then all over the internet, I would feel doxxed. What about others?

If I wrote an email to a several colleagues, I wouldn't feel it a massive breach if they went on to discuss it publicly, with our without my name attached. If I didn't want to stand by or be judged by my words, I shouldn't have written them.
posted by Dysk at 11:17 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


I think the rule should be "was the thing that was done, done publicly?". Here, the answer is no.

Posting it under your own name on a forum visible to all employees of a global company with nearly 75000 employees is darned near doing it publicly, IMHO.
posted by primethyme at 11:18 AM on August 7 [26 favorites]


Indeed. Fewer people would probably have seen it had he posted it directly to MetaFilter.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:26 AM on August 7 [9 favorites]


> I had always thought that Mefi's correctly strong principle of staying out of the doxxing game was indeed a principle, having nothing to do with pragmatic measurements of the broadness of distribution of the private name—so long as the individual remains a private individual, not having given an interview to a web site or appearing on Fox News or whatever.

What gave you this impression? At some point, the "out there"-ness reaches levels where MeFi deleting instances of people posting the name creates a Streisand effect dynamic, where the attempt to hide it just draws more attention. The Vox Day link was correctly deleted, but I saw it, as did others, and anyone who wanted to could google "vox day" and get the guy's name. We can quibble about where on the continuum MeFi should stay, but if six months from now the topic of anti-diversity in the workplace comes up and someone posts his name, should it be deleted then? The existence of a "zero tolerance" policy on posting names (and only names) that you seem to have assumed exists is impractical and counteproductive.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:27 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


"was the thing that was done, done publicly?"

Nelson can confirm this, but are Google employees aware that "when you post something, it's there forever"? Or that readers can forward and share stuff? My understanding is that they know what posting stuff under your real name means.

Leaks are how the world works when official channels are not trustworthy. Public call outs are one of very few weapons minorities have, and sometimes they don't even work.
posted by Tarumba at 11:27 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


I think a crucial aspect of doxxing is whether or not the involved party had an expectation of anonymity. In this case, dude sent an email blast with his name on it to a large number of people, so he clearly had no concerns about his opinions remaining anonymous. To me, that makes this not a case of doxxing.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 11:35 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


"Why should that concern me?"

This concerns people I care about, even if I don't know them. Publishing the name of this man increases the chances that he will be held accountable and maybe see some consequences for discriminating against my people.
posted by Tarumba


I was recently peripheral to an incident where this reasoning was used to "go public" with somebody's name -- a move which effectively destroyed the individual's career and put them in a psyche ward on suicide watch. And now, it's looking like the initial "charges" were almost* entirely erroneous. Not saying that this Google-individual is innocent in any way. Am saying, do we really want to be part of a process that destroys a reputation without first allowing for some kind of functional due process (ie: an employer's internal investigation).

* the individual was guilty of one fire-able offense, and very possibly would have lost their job because of it, but in no way would the situation have been newsworthy.
posted by philip-random at 11:41 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Google knows who he is & any immediate consequences will spring from them, so I don't see how spreading his name is helpful to anyone

Yea well some of us happen to be women who work in tech and have a non-zero chance of working with this guy in the future and would very much find it helpful to know that he was this guy, so maybe people less involved with the entire topic ought to be contributing less to the conversation about it.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:52 AM on August 7 [14 favorites]


It was a Google Doc, so it was accessible to 70k people but not actually dumped into their daily emails Frob. He clearly didn’t have an expectation of anonymity within Google, but may (reasonably?) have had an expectation that it would stay within the company

I suspect he thought it would sink without trace & be his little flag of protest so he could tell himself that he told them all so.
posted by pharm at 11:53 AM on August 7


Any of us have a non-0 chance of being on the receiving end of an internet crusade taoK: if you're unwilling or unable to extent the protection of not being named to someone you don't like, then you won't have much in the way of grounds for complaint if the eye of the internet ever falls on you & someone shares your name far and wide.

"no doxxing, except for those people we don't like" isn't really much of a rule at all.
posted by pharm at 11:58 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


> but may (reasonably?) have had an expectation that it would stay within the company

If he had that expectation, then it was unreasonable. The fact that he styles himself as a bold truth-teller who's going against the grain of an overly-PC company puts the bar for reasonable expectation of privacy somewhere around sending it out to a small circle of like-minded white men. As soon as that document hits the eyeballs of someone not receptive to his message, the recipient's feelings of being welcomed and accepted at their workplace are threatened, and thus their urge to share it more widely becomes reasonable. When it gets openly shared with thousands of people not receptive to his message, the chances of it being exposed are pretty much 100%.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:59 AM on August 7 [12 favorites]


Oh, agreed tonycpus: I was querying likely expectation given the context, not the reality of what happens when your screed goes viral in a company with 70k employees.
posted by pharm at 12:01 PM on August 7


Any of us have a non-0 chance of being on the receiving end of an internet crusade taoK: if you're unwilling or unable to extent the protection of not being named to someone you don't like, then you won't have much in the way of grounds for complaint if the eye of the internet ever falls on you & someone shares your name far and wide.

I'll bear that in mind, thanks so much for being the only person on the internet able to see this in the greater context rather than as a one-off event like us pea-brained idiots who are just unable to grasp the larger picture!
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:04 PM on August 7 [14 favorites]


I think the rule should be "was the thing that was done, done publicly?". Here, the answer is no.

It's a weird standard of "public" that doesn't include something done in front of thousands of people. I have lived in a number of cities with smaller populations than the number of people who work at Google. At some point, that's just... not a context in which there's an expectation of privacy, given ordinary human expectations of social contact. Posting personal contact info, "digging up dirt", those things are not appropriate at all. But if you create a document and you distribute it intentionally, in your professional capacity, to a midsized city worth of people (even a small city worth of people!), you can't possibly have an expectation that your actions are private and personal and nobody will be talking about them.

In particular, that "in your professional capacity" part is important. This wasn't personal. This wasn't something that he posted for a few friends to see. This was something posted as a senior software engineer commenting on the state of his industry and his employer. If he'd written something particularly notable about a programming language, would anybody blink at saying his name when it got shared more broadly? If he'd written something insightful and positive about diversity, would this be a problem? We share people's names attached to things they say in the context of their work all the time. The standard of "private" here is completely unworkable if applied to other people and situations.
posted by Sequence at 12:04 PM on August 7 [21 favorites]


"no doxxing, except for those people we don't like" isn't really much of a rule at all.

I realize this conversation is wandering a bit wider than this one comment in this one MeFi thread, but to just maybe tediously reiterate, that's not site policy and the issue specifically at play here in terms of MeFi norms and practice is more "how problematic is it to repeat what's already basically but not formally, journalistically confirmed" rather than e.g. "is doxxing cool". The stuff that I see as falling clearly afoul of moderation expectations on that front does not hang conditionally on whether the person involved is generally considered a dick or not.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:05 PM on August 7 [15 favorites]


In the wake of the Elliot Rodger murders there was lots of talk about whether young het men on the spectrum were especially vulnerable to MRA bullshit because of an awkwardness with women and frustrations over dating -- here, for example -- and I think that's left vague feelings of some kind of connection between autism and MRA in many people's minds.

Which is doubly ironic since MRA types generally have nothing but contempt for autistic people.
posted by jamjam at 12:08 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


This ain't doxxing.
posted by edeezy at 12:21 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Y'all let's not dig in further on sidebars or speculation about autism.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:25 PM on August 7 [24 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: "Indeed. Fewer people would probably have seen it had he posted it directly to MetaFilter."

If only because it would have been deleted out of hand.

In general I believe in a conservative approach to posting potentially derogatory information because it is impossible to unring the information bell. This case would seem to be right at the line. But waiting a day or two to post the information wouldn't have delayed any benefits to public safety but might have allowed the information to be more reliably vetted.
posted by Mitheral at 1:58 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Ah, as one of the accused of doxxing: First, the minor sub-thread of potential information suppression was relevant since Google is under investigation for gender inequality; second, the author of the screed/manifesto was named in other sources which I did not link to so as not to provide link juice and potentially his confidential information such as, his address being provided by third party advocates; third, we are speculating on his motives and argue about his age, education and whether there are extenuating circumstances that would let him off the hook for his writing. Heck, the information in this area came from public sources like LinkedIn; fourth, he, in his essay, evidenced no desire for anonymity (man, I read the text closely to be sure). Further, if you look at the context of the situation he distributed widely in an electronic forum in an age of near zero cost replication; fifth, his essay, I will be generous here, he makes it clear that he is very technically proficient by his very status and the fact he did not evidence a desire for privacy by locking down his Facebook or LinkedIn accounts made me think, "well, I guess he doesn't care about his name being available. " If he had locked down or deleted his accounts I would have still posted to provide a reader some inferred evidence of his drive for privacy, and was NOT an invitation for him to be harassed and finally, I do not think this is doxxing due to the author's public distribution of his manifesto with his statements of being a bold truth teller.

I appreciated Nelson for clarifying the name of the person. I trust him. Though people are hella angry at the author no none has advocated swatting or other 4chan behavior. We have been debating the legality of his being fired, liability and consequences for him and his corporation. In this discussion we have enough of his public information to add to the conversation such as, educational background. This is Not exactly, full on torches and pitchforks.
posted by jadepearl at 2:43 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


Usually the person doxxed prefers to be anonymous and takes steps to hide their identity. In this case, the author did not hide their identity but it began to appear that their employer perhaps was. (I can find some info on the author only from other search engines - including mass media articles that *should* be indexed by google as every other pages in the issue was).

So the doxxing was relevant in assessing how complicit google was in manipulating access to information. I've seen the internal memos from Google management and I recognise they are pissed (and I believe they *will* be firing the doofus and taking positive steps to weed out toxic Redpillers) but as we having willingly passed so much control over information to one private company this gives us an opportunity to comment on the implication of google actions, and hopefully effect change and a more responsible corporate use of information.
posted by saucysault at 2:59 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Well, I've been apparently banned from that thread, after my last three comments were deleted. In my last, I made two points: first Google is not firing him because they're waiting for the Trump Administration to hire him away as a Special Technological Advisor, i.e. his career is absolutely NOT ruined, and second: asking again if I'm the only Cis White Male whose 30+ year work experience has made me believe that Cis White Males are INFERIOR at most things... I guess if defending the original misogynist rant is acceptable but that is not, Engineer's Disease has spread even to MetaFilter. Such a shame.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:16 PM on August 7


Dude, you know where the contact form is if you are confused about a deletion. Plodding stubbornly onward and then lapsing over to speculate in MetaTalk instead of checking in with us directly isn't great form and you've been here long enough to know that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:20 PM on August 7


oneswellfoop, if you want to ask about this publicly rather than privately I'm happy to talk with you about it publicly here. You have a track record of voicing your enthusiasm in threads like that, in ways that sometimes end up ringing sort of weird or are going to cause a problem -- and in those cases (with you as with the other very few people who have a track record of this kind of thing), we'll often delete them rather than let a big derail develop and then have to prune it back later.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:21 PM on August 7


Honestly, I've never seen such a bunch of self-justifying bullshit as jadepearl's comment. Somehow, it's acceptable to dox someone when:
  • First = you deem their private information relevant to a discussion about their employer's faults;
  • Second = others have doxxed them;
  • Third = their guilt isn't determined and the private information may exonerate them;
  • Fourth = he doesn't specifically ask not to be doxxed;
  • Further = he posts in a non-private yet non-public forum;
  • Fifth = you deem he has the skills to know better.
posted by WCityMike at 3:35 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Would the mod who keeps deleting comments complaining about clawsoon and pharm's incessant insistence on analyzing whether the doc's arguments have merit please step in and either tell them to knock it off or explain in that thread with a mod note why we can't do it ourselves?
posted by zarq at 4:00 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


"asking again if I'm the only Cis White Male whose 30+ year work experience has made me believe that Cis White Males are INFERIOR at most things."

Men performatively decrying misogyny by crowing about how un-misogynist they are tends to center men's experiences at the expense of women's experiences. There are ways to express solidarity with women without making threads about feminism or misogyny about men. This is something we've noticed you doing a few times already, so it's more of a problem than it would be just once.

(Also, Trump does not need to be mentioned in EVERY THREAD, it's okay to let a Trump-related gallows joke go by from time to time without making it, and we've asked people to try to avoid it when it's not germane, to reduce the chance of politics derails requiring excessive mod attention in every single thread.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:02 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


zarq I did that already, it sometimes takes a minute.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:05 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Ok. Thank you. Much appreciated.
posted by zarq at 4:15 PM on August 7


He should not be doxxed, imo. Seems straightforward.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:15 PM on August 7


waiting a day or two to post the information wouldn't have delayed any benefits to public safety but might have allowed the information to be more reliably vetted.

this says it all for me. I guess I don't really get the urgency I'm feeling from some.
posted by philip-random at 4:22 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Trying very hard not to flashback to usenet flamewars. OK.

WCityMike wrote:
I think it's nonetheless an incredibly lousy thing to do to dig up the guy's name, name him in the thread, and then have someone say two comments later, "You knoooooow, he does happen to have Facebook and LinkedIn .... *innocent whistling*".
Do not attribute to me the intention of having the man harassed. I went out of my way to see some evidence of him wanting to be anonymous and through the thread went out of my way to NOT mention his name or link to other information. I made some presumptions of his technical skillset since that was a theme in his writing so, when replying to Nelson I mentioned the Facebook and LinkedIn being open it is an indicator of his privacy desires, which seemed to be none.
posted by jadepearl at 4:33 PM on August 7 [6 favorites]


I guess I don't really get the urgency I'm feeling from some.

You guys do know that this started on Friday, right? So people did...wait a couple of days before posting the information? Only I guess not the specific couple of days you wanted, or something.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:36 PM on August 7 [9 favorites]


For what it's worth, Motherboard has now published a copy of the manifesto/screed with the guy's name, so I think we can call it confirmed. And at this point, I don't think it's doxxing to name him, because it's definitely out there in public. (It's still doxxing to, like, publish his phone number or address, so don't do that.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:37 PM on August 7 [7 favorites]




This seems like the right place to thank the mods for trying to contain the heat of the original FPP. I feel like both sides of the argument are angry at some of the mods' decisions; sometimes that's a good sign. Pissing off both sides a little is surely better than just favoring one and ignoring the other.

I've already voiced how uncomfortable I am with how certain threads turn into hate pile ons. I don't need to reiterate my feelings any more than that, but I appreciate that the mods are doing their best to reign in some of the craziness. I realize that MeFi is an important pressure valve for a lot of members. I'm not saying this facetiously, but I recognize that MeFi can serve as a safe space for people who feel marginalized. As a generic white guy, I get frustrated that MeFi moderation has certain biases, but I recognize that these modding policies generally keep the community healthy and inviting for people who are repulsed/rejected from swathes of the internet/real world.

So as I've said in the past, I'm glad that we have a functioning community like MetaFilter. I'm not actively trying to silence other people through tone policing but I think we should really try to keep a bit more civil during this stressful period in the American zeitgeist. But seriously, a big thanks to the mods who have to wade through this morass on a daily basis. I know I push people's' buttons sometimes, but I think we're lucky to have this place.
posted by Telf at 8:17 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


I don't know what you intended with that weird italicizing, but it comes off as mocking and condescending, especially in the context of the rest of your comment. It doesn't help that you're characterizing the valid concerns and anger of marginalized people with terms like "craziness," and as merely the different side of the coin as bigots. Neither does accusations that the moderators are being biased for what is essentially recognizing marginalized people as actual people as well as the societal and cultural factors that constantly threaten their lives. And that doesn't even get into the weird stance that your "frustration" over these alleged biases is somehow valid.

If you don't want to push people's buttons, maybe don't do stuff like that.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:10 AM on August 8 [16 favorites]


I think we should really try to keep a bit more civil during this stressful period in the American zeitgeist.

A lot of us aren't American. MeFi didn't stop or slow or calm down for the brexit vote, the French presidential election, or any other number of things. Minorities don't and shouldn't have to pull their punches because some people over in America are hand-wringing about their latest president.
posted by Dysk at 3:19 AM on August 8 [24 favorites]


Also, the people who are disproportionally affected by these assorted crises, including Trump's manufactured chaos, are women and minorities. To hell with asking them to be more polite about speaking out against something like this. It's justified.
posted by zarq at 4:24 AM on August 8 [17 favorites]


Also, telling people being actively targeted for violence by conservative governments and their supporters both inside and out of the US that they "should really try to keep a bit more civil" is some fucking bullshit. There are people that are telling you of the actual effects that this violence is having on them, and not only do you use this dismissive tone and language, you've actually tried to re-center the conversations away from marginalized people in several recent threads. Worst of all, while doing that, you've actually tried to center the conversation on the people attacking them.

Assuming the best and that this is unintentional, you've got some huge blind spots and a lot of listening before even thinking about commenting the way you currently do that you need to work on.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:27 AM on August 8 [17 favorites]


The man is already fired, per articles this morning which had to have been filed last night. So I'm pretty confident thinking this was not so much as a doxxing as much as someone adding known and widely shared info we didn't have yet because we were too busy discussing the topic.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:09 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


80 Cats in a Dog Suit: "The man is already fired, per articles this morning which had to have been filed last night. So I'm pretty confident thinking this was not so much as a doxxing as much as someone adding known and widely shared info we didn't have yet because we were too busy discussing the topic."

Given that, is this thread useful anymore?
posted by WCityMike at 7:28 AM on August 8


Can we see the big board?
posted by clavdivs at 8:35 AM on August 8


Given that, is this thread useful anymore?

Sure, because general discussion of when it is or isn't okay to share personal information about people mentioned in posts is something maybe worth going over again, as well as people's personal definitions of doxxing.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:39 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


Also, Trump does not need to be mentioned in EVERY THREAD

Thank you for saying this again. I'm starting to think that the "Hide US politics posts" widget should just log me out and put an entry in my hosts file pointing me away completely. I'm exaggerating and I do understand the impulse and origin of the comments, but snarky Trump jabs showing up in completely unrelated posts is tiring.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:11 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


The mods have asked folks to flag that kind of off-topic dragging in, and several of the comments I've flagged have been deleted. It makes for a much more enjoyable thread experience once they're cleaned up.
posted by Lexica at 1:06 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


jessamyn: " because general discussion of when it is or isn't okay to share personal information about people mentioned in posts is something maybe worth going over again, as well as people's personal definitions of doxxing."

And I'd say it results in a better policy discussion when we aren't narrowly focused on a particular case.
posted by Mitheral at 1:18 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I think I would rather that we wait to name the guy until he was named in a reputable news source

I agree, and by the time I made my comment he had already been named by CNBC, among others. I checked immediately - via a Google News search - before posting.

Accountability is important.
posted by Miko at 10:30 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


This is not the case of people hacking and philtering though information and clues to figure out who a person is. It's also not searching through all of their personal info and posting name, address, emails, phone numbers, relatives etc. That is doxxing. Or at least is was doxxing.

The Google guy thing is done, but as things go on in general I'm feeling like we are getting closer and closer to prime doxxing peak as internet and real life mesh more, and it is kind of wibbly.

So, for me, putting together someone's face and RL identity and their twitter is doxxing if their twitter isn't MyRealNameHere. Posting details of where someone works or where they live is doxxing if that information was not originally meant to be publicly available. If a Mefite becomes notorious for some reason, posting 'Mefi's Own X' when X has not been comfortable linking those two identities would to me be doxxing.

I think the problem is that it used to take a lot more work to identify people. The people on the internet were a lot more anonymous-conscious and so you had to work way harder to figure out who people were. Now you can often, say, input someone's email address into Facebook and find their name, or search LinkedIn for someone with the same first name and employment details. But just because it's easy doesn't mean that they don't deserve the same privacy as people who buried it under three switches or whatever.
posted by corb at 8:32 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I deleted a Nazi's phone number from the Charlottesville thread. He had said the number in his YouTube video (If law enforcement wants me to come in, here is my number") but bringing it into a thread and just posting it there and telling people to hassle the guy is a different thing altogether.
posted by jessamyn (temp) at 5:26 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


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