[In response to TechDirt: Reddit, Trolling, Doxxing, Free Speech & Anonymity: Whoo Boy, Is This Stuff Complicated I posted a comment; which I think this is important enough to repeat a slightly modified version here.]
Free speech is *only* legally protected from government censorship.
Individuals and corporations are legally allowed to censor speech in their own premises, forums, workplaces, homes, or anywhere else.
But what constitutes Free Speech?
The written description of what was posted online:
“…surreptitiously shot photos of others, usually women, usually focused on sexually objectifying the subjects of the shot.”
Photographing private individuals without their consent?
Then publishing the illicit photos on the internet?
I’m sorry, how is this free speech?
If you climb a tree and photograph your neighbor through their window, is that free speech too?
The article goes on to explain that the photographs were “often very young women.”
The comments mention the existence of a Reddit forum called /r/jailbait ?
And then there is the teacher posting photographs of students. When an authority figure abuses the power they have over over other people, it is an unconscionable breach of trust, possibly liable for criminal charges, certainly and most deservedly, to job loss. This is not free speech.
There have been emphatic arguments in the TechDirt comments about how important it is to protect the privacy of people who take such surrepetious photographs, and moderators who were aware of such content being published on the Internet without the subjects’ knowledge or permission.
You are concerned about the protection of the perpetrator’s anonymity.
Yet precious little thought has been given to the people whose anonymity has been stripped away through the publication of illicit photographs. What about the victim’s anonymity?
The contention has been made that publishing such photographs is “free speech.” Poppycock.
Professional photographers only publish photographs of subjects when they have signed release forms, because otherwise they can be held legally liable. Even models that have been paid to pose must sign releases; if they don’t, the photographs are published at the photographer’s peril.
Because one’s image is part of the individual’s private domain.
Although public figures may be “fair game” because they have put themselves in the public eye, private individuals are accorded legal protection of personal privacy.
The face, the likeness, the identifiability of individuals is protected. Any such invasion of the personal privacy of an individual must trump any arguments of free speech.
You can think what you want. You can say what you want. You can troll all the live long day. But taking surreptitious photographs of people and publishing them without express permission is a no-no.
If you post a photo of my daughter without her permission, or mine if she is a minor, you’ll find yourself in a world of trouble. Because you will have invaded my daughter’s privacy. You made this decision, you took these actions, and the logical consequence is that you answer for it.
There *should* be laws to address this creepy crap on Reddit. But maybe there aren’t. Or even if there are, the forces of law enforcement may not have a clue how to tackle a Reddit. Or maybe they *nudge*nudge*wink*wink simply don’t do a damn thing about it.
If the law does not answer, the best way to achieve social justice is to shine a light on injustice. If the law can’t or won’t deal with something this reprehensible, doxxing seems to be a perfectly acceptable, moral and ethical recourse.
And as the TechDirt article suggests, this wasn’t even doxxing, it was a case of media reporting.
Personal privacy is a natural right. We all need personal privacy. Our own space.
The creep perpetrators invaded that space. They chose to commit bad acts.
People who are photographed secretly, and then had the photographs published, have chosen nothing. They have been victimized by the acts of the perpetrators. Whether or not the law has defined this specific behaviour as assault, that is exactly what it is: an invasion of a human being’s personal space, and an assault on privacy.