Doxing (or doxxing) is when a person gathers and publishes an individual’s personal information online without permission. The term originates from the phrase “dropping documents.” Examples of information that may be shared include an individual’s home address, email address, telephone number, place of employment, etc. The purpose of doxing is usually intimidation, humiliation, or retaliation. It can put the subject at risk of violence or injury from a large online audience.
Anyone can be a victim of doxing from ordinary individuals to celebrities and political figures. For example, in August of 2019, a University of Texas student group called the Autonomous Student Network threatened incoming freshman that it would post their public information, including phone numbers and email addresses if they joined a conservative club on campus.
Is Doxing Illegal Under Texas State Law?
In most cases, it is technically not against Texas lax to post someone’s publicly available personal information in Frisco. But there are circumstances where doxing does cross the line into illegality.
- Targeting Police Officers
Texas Penal Code § 38.15(d)(1) criminalizes the act of posting the home address, telephone number, or social security number of a police officer. It is a Class B misdemeanor and punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Cyberbullying is when a person uses any electronic communication to engage in bullying or intimidation. It was criminalized in 2017 under David’s Law. Cyberbullying is a Class B misdemeanor. It is bumped up to a Class A misdemeanor if the defendant has a previous conviction for cyberbullying or if the victim was under 18 years old, and the defendant targeted the victim with the intent to make the victim commit suicide or hurt themselves. There may also be school-related penalties, such as suspension or expulsion.
An individual can be charged with harassment under Texas Penal Code Section 42.07, when he or she intentionally communicates an obscene proposal, threatens, conveys a false report, or makes a call or sends a message designed to harass, annoy, alarm, embarrass, or torment. Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Subsequent harassment offenses are Class A misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Texas law defines stalking as when an individual knowingly engages in a pattern of behavior that someone else would find threatening, and that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid. Stalking is a third-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Is Doxing Illegal Under Federal Law?
As with Texas state law, there is no single federal law that makes doxing illegal. However, there are several charges that an individual could face if they engage in doxing, depending on the circumstances.
- Protecting Individuals Performing Certain Official Duties
18 U.S.C. § 119 criminalizes the act of making public restricted personal information. However, it only applies if the victim was an officer or employee of the United States, a juror or witness, an informant in a federal criminal investigation, or a state or local officer or employee if the information is made public because of their assistance or participation in a federal criminal investigation.
18 U.S.C. § 2261A prohibits the use of any interactive computer service in a course of conduct to place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. A course of conduct means that there must be two or more acts. This does not always occur during doxing, where a large group of actors works together, and each individual may only be responsible for one to two posts. Federal stalking penalties range from a maximum of five years to a maximum of life in prison where the stalking results in the death of the victim.
- Interstate Communications Statute
18 U.S.C. § 875 criminalizes the internet transmission of any communication containing any threat to physically harm, kidnap, or injure the reputation of a person. The threat has to be a “true threat,” meaning that it must be a statement where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence against a particular individual or group of individuals. True threats are not protected by the first amendment. Some instances of doxing will not fall under this statute because there is no specific and clear threat.
Your Frisco Criminal Defense Attorney
Philip D. Ray is an experienced criminal defense attorney helping the residents of Frisco, Texas. If you were accused of a doxing offense, we encourage you to call our office today at (214) 845-7987 to schedule a consultation.