how should employers respond to employees being doxxed?

A reader writes:

How should employers respond to employees being doxxed?

Background: I was in a popular online fitness forum last night when several posters complained about being doxxed by a popular Instagram fitness/weight-loss account. The influencer (or someone on her behalf) was looking up accounts that she felt had trolled her, trying to find their employers, calling the employer, and asking to speak to the manager of the person. She complained to the managers about their employees online comments on her account and used language indicating that they should be ashamed to have this person working for them.

To my limited knowledge, no one was fired but several posters admitted having embarrasing talks with their managers. Most posters said that they had not posted anything overtly hateful, threatening, or obscene, but the influencer is well known to delete comments and block anyone who asks legitimate questions or doubts about some of the advice that she gives out. From personal experience, I was blocked from that account just for “liking” a legitimate question that someone had about her fitness regiment.

I work in a blue collar industry, and I’m pretty sure that my boss would laugh his head off about receiving a call like this, but I can imagine that in some industries, calling into question an employee’s online activities/reputation would be pretty serious. What is the best course of action for managers who receive a call like this?

As a manager, you want to get really clear on what kind of outside-of-work behavior is and isn’t appropriate for you to weigh in on.

It’s really, really not an employer’s business if an employee is having an out-of-work Instagram dispute with someone about a fitness regime, even if it escalates to salty language.

But on the other end of the spectrum, if an employee is posting inflammatory bigoted statements and hate speech online, employers can have a legitimate business interest in not wanting to be associated with that person, both in terms of public perception and in terms of not wanting to subject their other employees to bigotry.

Whenever this topic comes up, people ask why employers should have the right to police employees’ speech outside of work at all — and ask why it’s okay to say that you can police one kind of speech but not another. But as a society we’ve chosen to treat bigotry and hate speech as different from other types of speech (and different from normal political discourse). And if you’re publicly espousing hateful, racist, or otherwise bigoted views, your employer is entitled not to want to be associated with that or to expose their other employees and their customers to that.

But let’s go back to the Instagram fitness dispute, where I said it’s none of the employer’s business. If that dispute escalated to being outright abusive — like if the employee were making violent threats, etc., which is a thing that can happen online even in low-stakes disputes — I wouldn’t fault an employer for talking to them about that. It’s reasonable to say, “You need to be aware that this stuff isn’t private, and if you post violent threats in a public space, that’s going to make some of your coworkers and clients very uncomfortable working with you. It makes me uncomfortable, as your boss. You’ve got to cut that out.” And in some cases I’d add, “This seems out of character. Are you doing okay?”

But if an employer receives a report of the sort of thing you’re talking about — daring to question a fitness influencer about their advice — that’s not something they should act on. It still may make sense for them to inform the employee, so that the employee knows someone is targeting them in this way, but that would just be something like, “Hey, I got this weird call and it doesn’t seem like my business, but I wanted you to be aware of it.” (Of course, I imagine the doxxing Instagramer here alleged that the person was harassing her online or something like that, in which case the employer does need to ask more questions. But they should ask before drawing any conclusions, and they should go into the situation realizing that they don’t have all the facts.)

As a general principle, though, I’d err on the side of “not an employer’s business” unless it’s hate speech, violent threats, or harassment.

What do others think?

{ 498 comments… read them below }

  1. Emi.*

    I think managers should also be alert to the potential for doxxing to escalate or lead to in-person stalking or harassment, so the doxxed employee might need extra security precautions.

    1. Green*

      Yes; I have had a bigot contact my employer upset that I support “illegals” and “perverts in women’s bathrooms”, and threatening me. The person alleged I was not licensed in my field, and they were able to open and close that investigation very quickly (my licensure is available online). My employer was mostly concerned about my safety and how to support me. Obviously I’d rather them not be contacted by nuts online, but also a lot of these people come off as more disturbed than the behavior they’re reporting…

      1. Justin*

        I’m on a forum where a disgruntled former member (he was banned) has been going to the employers of people who he especially didn’t like. I think that’s more of a concern than someone maybe being a jerk online and making the company look bad.

  2. JokeyJules*

    I agree with Alison that unless it’s particularly hateful, violent, or harassment, it isn’t really the employers business what the employee is posting. I personally think it reflects more poorly on the influencer (I think I know who OP is talking about but won’t say – don’t want my boss to get a call) than it would on the employee in this particular instance and many others.
    I know my boss would just giggle if someone called the office to complain to him about my online comments.
    I guess the exception would be if the employee is in a public position like PR, or a company spokesperson or rep.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      I’d really like to know who that is haha I follow a lot of fitness accounts. I know, its OT.

      I just wonder how easy it is to find someone’s employer??? I do’t have my employer on my social media, but I do have coworkers that I’m friends with. Like, I can’t imagine devoting so much time to stalking someone over a mean comment.

      Part of me thinks doxxing is extreme, but then I have come across a few people where I’m like….they really really really deserve it (looking at you incels).

      1. Managed Chaos*

        It was FatGirlFedUp/Lexi Reed. She asked her followers to help her if they knew about “finding information online” and two days later, critics got phone calls. And not even people being malicious- just people who followed a troll account that makes fun of her (even if they didn’t comment- just followed). Another person who got called just had commented that DietBet hosts get 10% of the pot- a factual statement from DietBet’s disclosures.

        I followed it all in real time on Instagram.

        1. Amber T*

          Whoa. I follow her on my fitness instagram (which is separate from my regular insta)… I like her content but I’ve never read the comments. That’s super disappointing.

          1. Cacwgrl*

            There have been comments made on her posts for weeks, asking if she will acknowledge the problem or ask her rabid followers to stop and she either deletes or ignores them, along with any questions addressing WLS, her disregard of laws, her refusal to clarify her profits and income with Diet Bet, which I thought was an FCC rule and when she is called out for obvious photoshopping. I’ve seen four or five “troll” accounts that call her out and they are very upfront if they have had employers contacted.

      2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        On the question of how easy it is to find somone’s employer – well, it’ll depend a lot on how much your profile shows of your ‘real identity’, and if the person is willing to shell out some cash to find out.

        I actually perform pre-hire due diligence professionally, part of which is tracking down job candidates’ online profiles and reviewing them. If I have one profile, then there are a variety of tools I can use to try to track down others (if you use the same name on multiple platforms, that makes my job much, much easier!) and some, which require a paid subscription, that try to extract the email login from a particular platform (so, for example, I could use someone’s LinkedIn to find out their email) and others which will search for social media platforms that match any data I have available (name, login email, username, etc.). If you use the same picture on multiple platforms – or just a picture that is recognizably you – that also makes it more likely that someone could track down your profiles.
        All of the above is using legit, above-board methods – if someone wants to ‘hack’ your profile, they could potentially get much more information.

        The good news is – in most cases, employers don’t seem to care about ‘normal’ online behavior. They care about bigoted or just really embarrassing content, but unless your job is to be the public face of the company, that’s probably about it. We (at my company) do flag profanity, politically charged content, sexual content, etc., but in most cases our clients don’t particularly care unless it’s egregious or offensive – and they’re even less likely to care if it’s not public content. In one of the more ~embarrassing~ profiles we’ve found (think: racist porn) the client just asked us to help the candidate make sure the content was no longer publicly findable.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          Your job sounds rather interesting. If you’re able to say, are you typically looking at the online presence of more highly compensated individuals/individuals in sensitive positions or individuals in mid-level roles and maybe even below? And of course, LOVE the name. I used to use it as my online username on several platforms.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            Usually high-level candidates – C-suite executives are quite common, it’s usually mid-level management or above, but we do occasionally have entry-level candidates, sometimes even interns! Usually those requests only come from our existing clients (who are mostly headhunting firms) for their own internal candidates, though. (And while GDPR doesn’t make finding information any more difficult, it does restrict what we are allowed to report to our clients.) It used to be possible to manually search Facebook via email & phone number, but that capability disappeared around the same time as GDPR; I’m not sure if was because of the new regulations, or just because Facebook had caught so much flak recently. Either way, if it used to exist, it could be brought back, so for those trying to ensure their profiles remain private, I’d advise against linking your phone number and publicly-available email (or the email on your resume) to any accounts you’d rather keep hidden.

            1. JeffsAngryMushroom*

              Does a lack of a presence online raise the green flag of discretion or the red flag of suspicious secrecy?

              1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

                Well, I can’t speak to the interpretation of any particular employer, but I don’t think it raises a red flag for most people. It might be a little odd if you didn’t even have a LinkedIn or ResearchGate in fields where those are normal things to have (and if the job is PR or involved digital marketing, it might raise the question of why you’re not using the platforms you claim expertise in), but for most positions employers are primarily concerned with whether or not you’re going to publicly embarrass them. If the account cannot be convincingly traced to you, then it’s not publicly embarrassing – and simply not having, say, a Twitter account is not embarrassing.

        2. anon for this one*

          Question. I have “sock” accounts online for fanfiction. They all have a separate email and username that isn’t even remotely linked to my real name. Think something like randomword @ email or randomword username. There’s a lot of written porn on my account, so that’d be the only thing I’d ever be worried about an employer finding even though it’s all written in my free time outside of work.

          I don’t talk about any personal stuff and have no personal pictures so my only identifying info would be my IP address. How easy would it be for someone to figure out who I am via doxxing? It’s something I worry about because teenagers in fandom can get vicious about shipping and fic lol.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            Depends how skilled they are… it’s not that complicated, but most people don’t know how to do it. If you’re worried about it, try getting a VPN – this will disguise your IP address. As long as you don’t log into your real accounts and send emails while logged into the VPN, it should disguise your location just fine. And they’re pretty cheap.

        3. always anon*

          I would argue that using a tool to extract someone’s email address is not a legit above-board method. If the person did not post their email publicly on that site, then that means they deliberately chose the “keep my contact information private setting”. You are exploiting a security vulnerability in a website to obtain non-public information.

          1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

            In this context, ‘above-board’ means ‘legal and considered ethical within the standards of the profession.’ As in, I’m not hacking or phishing, or posing as a friend, or anything of that sort. I’m not entirely sure what the privacy settings are for any particular profile, but I do know that the extraction tools are only sometimes successful; I believe the right settings prevent extraction, while others do not display the email publicly but do not prevent extraction.

              1. LarsTheRealGirl*

                That….seems like a leap from what Anastasia has shared. Looking up online information, publicly available, is hardly an ethical pearl clutching.

                1. D'Arcy*

                  It’s not a leap, considering that Anastasia explicitly admitted that she’s using hacking tools to defeat site privacy settings and extract private information, but claims that this not really hacking and somehow above board because it falls within the standards of her profession. If that is true, than her entire profession has low ethical standards. If it is not true, than it is only she who is unethical.

                2. LarsTheRealGirl*

                  She specifically says that she doesn’t use hacking tools. I think this is more like, she has a tool that can quickly search publicly available data on Facebook, insta, LinkedIn, etc for any and all information she has about you. Someone else could spend a while longer and do the same thing on Google. The more info you provide on these platforms, the more she can find.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  Would a private investigator’s action of following people around and photographing them be unethical?

                4. JSPA*

                  “Using the internet well” =/= “hacker.”

                  I’ve bumbled upon that sort of information doing recursive googling of other information… or putting in a shortened version of a URL because I’m trying to ditch tracking tools from a supplied URL. There must be people who are not aware that sites add extra data on the end of URLs to track which of their users are forwarding what…but having and using that knowledge hardly makes me a hacker.

              2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

                That… is not accurate. We’re not hacking anything (and if a client were to ask us to do so, we would refuse) and these are job candidates who have authorized us to perform these searches. I do think some of them aren’t clear what exactly we’ll be searching, and some seem to be surprised that the searches *actually* happened, but they signed documentation giving us permission to verify their resume, conduct criminal background searches, check their online presence, and any other aspect of their qualifications that our clients deem relevant. (Some jurisdictions have laws forbidding employers from excluding a candidate based on a criminal record, so that part gets very complicated, and GDPR adds complications in verifying education and what we’re allowed to report about social media, but we have a team of lawyers ensuring that we are in compliance with all local laws.)

            1. Jasnah*

              I’m really concerned that you’re extracting emails from sites where people have elected to not display their email publicly. Often times that is the only setting available to hide one’s email. So that is pretty shocking that you’re able to get it and then use it to find other accounts. That’s not what I would consider ethical, even if your profession does.

              1. anon for this one*

                Yeah. I can think of several sites where the only option I have to hide my email is hitting a button that says it won’t be searchable. Extracting it in this method is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

              2. Electric Pangolin*

                This is just the “Let people find me by my e-mail address/phone number” feature, I’m assuming. The tool will collect lists of e-mail addresses; enter them into the search to see what profile is associated with them; and then sell you the reverse information if the e-mail was in their list. Turn off “let others find if they have my e-mail”.

        4. Carpe Librarium*

          I’m very curious about what your job entails and the quirky oddnesses you would discover about people.

          Perhaps Alison would be interested in doing one of her interview pieces with you about how you got into the job and what it entails; or maybe you’d be open to answering questions from commenters in a Friday open thread?

          1. Lily B*

            Seconded. This would be fascinating. And any practical tips you have for people to protect their privacy would be amazing!

        5. Sacred Ground*

          If it’s not public content, how would you even have access to it, let alone judge someone for it? I mean, by definition, that which isn’t public is private. Are you talking about private communications?

          1. JSPA*

            Let’s say your name isn’t on the physical mail box in your apartment building. Or the lot-block code for your house (along with the mailing address for the person who pays the property taxes) isn’t on the side of your house.

            That doesn’t make those things private information (in most or all of the USA).

            Barring other deeper blocks (eg you get your name de-listed as part of a protection from stalking, you get your taxes delivered via a third party) that’s public information that isn’t displayed in a particular location. Not private information.

            Same thing. “Displayed / not displayed” is NOT the same as “public / private.” Never was.

            People have been warning about conflating the two IRL before the internet existed. And about the same risks on the internet for about as long as the internet has existed.

            It can be an icky feeling when you realize how careless / exposed you’ve been / are. Like realizing your bedroom drapes are way more sheer than you thought. But your misjudgment of your drapes doesn’t make the neighbors into peeping toms. And your misperception of internet privacy doesn’t make people who “see” you there, hackers.

            In fact, the OP here is more akin to the helpful neighbor who is willing to tell you that your drapes seem to be inadequate. As they pointed out, the companies are not primarily being anti -sex, or even anti – unpopular – opinion; they’re concerned that you (the professional) not be a link between such things and their business.

        6. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Sounds like a job I’d love and be good at. I wish there were a way for you to share company and/or career info without identifying yourself.

      3. Linda*

        Depends on the forum. It can be pretty easy to dox someone on Facebook. Especially, if you have a unique name, such as I do, all you have to do is google the name. The employer usually pops up. That’s one of the main reasons I don’t participate in any forums with my real name attached.

        1. Trouble*

          I got a new job 8 weeks ago and have chosen not to attach anything to do with my employer to my online life for these kind of reasons. It looks like I left my last place and gave up on working. My facebook is as locked down as possible. Crazy people be everywhere.

          1. Loux in Canada*

            Working for certain government agencies or companies, you can’t anyway. I’m not allowed to disclose on social media where I work, that being said, I do have it on my LinkedIn profile with my full name.

            1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

              Additionally there are certain government agencies where they recommend that you do not have an online social media presence, because people can lack understanding of why you are doing what you do.
              I know of a few people that are acquaintances that have received threats against themselves/their family just for doing their job and enforcing rules designed to try and keep people safe. People aren’t always rational; I think that this may be even more the case for the group that think outing an employee for online action (or outing them online in a threatening manner using information found through social media) is a legitimate manner of handling disagreements.

    2. CynicallySweet*

      Honestly thinking about what my bosses reaction to something like this made me laugh a little. “Who are you? Why do I care? Never call again.”

      1. Not So Super-visor*

        That’s what I was thinking too. My boss is a salty old Marine (still keeps the buzz cut). I mentally giggle just thinking about the amount of sarcasm that would be in his voice if he had to take a call like this.

    3. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      Oof I struggle with this but ultimately land on the side of the ends don’t justify the means and no one wins when facts are cast aside for quick, mob justice.

      As a liberal it would be nice to have the cake and eat it too and I would love to never work with a Nazi but is it worth the collateral damage like this person:

      In my opinion no.

    4. Observer*

      If someone called me to tell me that an employee of mind followed a troll account, I’d tell them to unfollow – troll accounts are trouble. Other than that? Nothing. As for “You should be ashamed of employing someone who noticed that I was promoting something where I got a share of the take, and didn’t say so”, I think I’d have to get off the phone REALLY fast to avoid laughing while on the phone call.

      1. FedUp*

        I think that would be a massive overreach – telling someone they can’t follow a joke account on instagram because it makes fun of a public figure? If they’re not following it with a company account, it really shouldn’t be any of your business.

        1. JokeyJules*

          i interpreted Observers statement to be more like “those troll accounts are crazy, they’re nothing but trouble” or something along those lines. Not “You must unfollow”

          1. Red 5*

            That’s how I read it too, and I’ve had similar conversations at work since part of my job is social media and tracking our work related social media accounts. We have conversations about this kind of thing all the time. “I saw that exchange you had yesterday, you probably shouldn’t feed the trolls, doesn’t it get annoying?” not “don’t respond to those people ever again.”

            It’s more about just talking best practices with each other, and “man, following that troll account probably isn’t worth your time” is definitely on that list.

          2. Observer*

            I probably should have used the term “advise”. Even so called “joke” troll accounts tend to be pot stirrers at best.

  3. Captain S*

    This seems like an eminently reasonable way to handle this stuff.
    I’d be extremely embarrassed as an employee for basically any private online behavior to come to light, even if it’s not inherently embarrassing but I hope that my employer would approach it reasonably and with caution.

  4. benny c*

    I think I would be extremely primed to look for craziness in this rando calling me to complain about someone I know being mean to them on the internet. Like, if there is any craziness at all in the caller’s presentation, I’d be strongly inclined to assume they’re just a lunatic, since they’re the ones doing something as gross as doxxing somebody.

    1. Annette*

      Yes. Many of these so called influencers have very little credibility outside of Snapchat. I’d choose to ignore in most cases.

    2. Amber T*

      Yes – one coworker has fully admitted to trolling certain anti-science spaces (presumably on his own time), which in my opinion is “why do you bother, but okay then.” But if we ever got a call about him, any negative reactions would be fully on the caller.

  5. Roscoe*

    This one is tough for me. Because while I do agree that certain speech is harmful, if I were a manager, I also don’t know that I’d want to condone to act of doxxing by punishing the person either. Like to me, its one thing if you are caught on video, in public, saying some horrible things and people are able to link you to your employer by your picture. Its VERY different to me if I’m posting under “Roscoe” on a forum, and someone is able to trace my info back and then go to my boss. I think by punishing or firing the person, you are in a way encouraging that type of behavior, because people are getting what they want. So even if it is bigoted in a way, I don’t know that it should be punished by random internet stranger. Again, very different if they are even publicly commenting on their facebook that is attached to their name and a co-worker sees it.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I don’t know…like, I can see where you’re coming from, but one of the best ways to stamp out hate speech is to make it very, very costly for people to espouse. When it’s absolutely socially unacceptable for people to say certain things, and they know they will face steep consequences for doing so, they tend to shut up on the topic. I wouldn’t condone doxxing for being a run-of-the-mill sexist jerk, for example – but one of those guys who outright condones rape and encourages violence against women? To me, at that point, it’s more important to stop him than it is to respect his privacy.

      And if someone at that level of horribleness is doxxed and their boss says “I agree that that’s horrible, but I don’t condone doxxing so I’m not going to do anything about this,” the message I would take from that is “this person/business cares more about taking a principled stand on the privacy of bigots to spout hate speech and incite violence, than they do about the safety of the people their employee is inciting violence towards.”

      I guess it comes to a matter of priorities. I value privacy very, very highly, so up to a certain point I agree with you – but there comes a point where safety for others has to take priority over one person’s right to privacy.

      1. Wintermute*

        The problem is we’re living in an era where EVERYONE says EVERYTHING is hate speech, empowering internet vigilantes doesn’t help. And before anyone says that it’s not everyone, I can come up with plenty of examples from the news on both sides of the isle so it’s not just a matter of “yeah that whole political party is irredeemably evil and deserve it”– but that’s how a lot of people see politics these days, they legitimately think half of America is just so wrong they should be punished for speaking.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      That’s a good thought. Someone making the effort to be reasonably anonymous is actively trying not to involve their friends/family/work so the “it makes us look bad” reasoning isn’t at play.

      I’m all for doxxing illegal activity and reporting it to the proper authorities, which is law enforcement not their boss.

      1. Roscoe*

        This exactly. If it is actually threatening behavior, then take it to law enforcement. Going to their boss? That I can’t get behind

        1. Diluted_TortoiseShell*


          One is mob the other is actual systematic justice.

          Now the justice system in the US is FAR from perfect but it’s track record is a heck of a lot better than random outraged people.

        2. KHB*

          From what I’ve heard, law enforcement doesn’t have such a great track record of responding effectively to certain types of threatening online behavior. So I don’t really blame people for wanting to try a different approach.

        3. Fish*

          Law enforcement do sod-all about people being horrendous online unless there are specific action-sounding threats like “I’ve planted a bomb at your address on XXX street”. Someone being shittily racist? Nothing.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            In the U.S., we don’t have laws against being shittily racist online. You can be banned from the platform but that’s about it—if the platform actually bothers, that is.

            Even slander and libel are only civilly actionable; you can sue, but law enforcement typically doesn’t get involved except for direct threats. They definitely are woefully behind on handling cybercrimes of all sorts; law enforcement tends to be reactive not proactive.

            1. Penny Parker*

              Yes; fortunately in the United States we have constitutional rights which give us freedom of speech and freedom to discuss our thoughts. We also have anti-harassment laws for those who are sincerely harassing others, but a lot of what is considered to be on-line harassment is simply differences of opinion. I am amazed at how many are willing to flush our rights down the toilet in order to have everyone think the same.

        4. Observer*

          The problem is that the authorities generally – often CANNOT really do anything about some of this stuff.

          Take “revenge porn” and “upskirting” (ie taking creepshots up women’s skirts – obviously without their consent) are not illegal, except for England and Wales, where upskirting has JUST been legally forbidden.

          So, I get the distinction but unfortunately, it’s just not as simple as it seems in some cases.

        5. Roscoe*

          @KHB and Fish

          So I guess my question then, if going to the cops is something you aren’t willing to do because you don’t think they will do enough, is what is the point in going to their company? Like are you doing it because you find them so represhensible that you think they don’t deserve to have a job? To say you are “sticking it to the man?”. I mean, I honestly don’t understand people who feel the need to do that.

          Now, if its a business you have patronized for years, and all of a sudden this persons employment makes you second guess that, I mean fine. I personally don’t know that I’d take it that far, but ok. But I mean, if it is someone who does something that you have absolutely nothing to do with and in a business you would’ve never used anyway, I guess I just don’t see what you have to gain except a warp sense of karmic justice that you “got them”

          1. Anononon*

            The disconnect is that you don’t see their speech as ultimately harmful/having any consequences, which I disagree with. So, it’s not just sticking it to the man but rather protecting a certain population.

            1. Lissa*

              I’m interested here, because I am one who does absolutely think speech can be harmful and have consequences. But how is tracing down their real identity and telling their employer protecting a certain population? It doesn’t stop them posting anonymous hate. I would think it’d be more effective to target the places online that allow that type of stuff.

              1. Anononon*

                I admit it’s very much a macro view to some degree. In general, I think hate speech should be shut down whenever possible. The less people espousing such views, the better it is for the targeted population.

                1. Roscoe*

                  I guess though my thought is you still aren’t shutting anything down. If your goal is to get them fired, thats not stopping bad views. All it is doing is leaving someone unemployed. And then you feel good about that? I can’t see myself ever feeling good about getting someone fired from their job. Its just too much petty vengence for my taste

                2. Jasnah*

                  Agree with Roscoe, would this person actually stop posting that stuff if they were fired? I don’t think doxxing people stops the problem unless they were using their company platform; it just punishes the person. You can decide if you do want to punish them but I don’t think getting fired is going to make someone rethink their bigoted views–it just turns them into a martyr.

            2. Roscoe*

              So, I am a black man. I do think speech can be harmful and wrong. I just don’t know that you are really protecting anyone like you seem to think. You aren’t changing anyone’s mind. In fact, I’d argue that you are going to make them double down on those negative things.

              But, if I found saw a friend of a friend of mine on Facebook call someone the N word, even as a black person, I just don’t see myself figuring out where they work and contacting their boss about it.

              1. Anononon*

                I don’t care about trying to change minds. I care about not giving hate speech an outlet. I want people to be afraid to publicly be racist/sexist/homophobic etc.

                It’s not surprising in any way that as the political discourse has become more hate charged, there’s been a rise in public hate groups. When we let people use such speech, others are emboldened.

                1. Roscoe*

                  So its going back to what I originally said. You want some kind of karmic justice that you stuck it to them. Because lets be real, you aren’t taking away their outlet for hate speech. If they said something hateful on Reddit, and you tell their boss and they get fired, they just have more time to post hateful stuff on reddit. You aren’t stopping them from doing anything is my point. You just are making yourself feel better by harming someone else’s livelihood.

                2. Ajana*

                  What bothers me is how something someone finds “offensive’ is now quickly classed as racist/sexist/etc.

                  “Potatoes come from South America.”

                  “Russia was first to send a man into space, and Americans are the only people to have walked on the Moon.”

                  “An American called Martin Cooper invented the cell phone.”

                  What we think are factual statements have been labelled as racist ones because (different) people decided to be offended by them. In a world where people are looking to be offended and looking to police language, where do we go next? What can we say when factual statements are deemed racist by others? :(

                3. TootsNYC*

                  James Baldwin once said (and I can’t find that clip again), and I’m paraphrasing:

                  I don’t really care what you think or say about me; I can about how you TREAT me. So you can hate me in your head all you want. But I don’t want you to act in a way that hurts me.

                  So if hassling someone and making their life difficult because they are engaging in public hate speech will deter someone ELSE from being quite so loud and vocal about it, then that’s a good thing.
                  And if the community at large says, “this is awful,” some people eventually are going to go along with that.

          2. KHB*

            In actual fact, I’ve never reported anyone’s online behavior to their employer. But to answer your question, yes, I do think some people’s online behavior is so reprehensible that they don’t deserve to have a job. Or at least, not a good, attractive job that could easily be filled by someone who doesn’t go around online making rape threats, promoting white supremacy, or whatever else.

            From your comments every time this topic comes up, I understand that you feel differently. That’s fine. I don’t need the whole world to agree with me on this.

          3. Yorick*

            I generally don’t think we should contact someone’s employer over what they post. But the posts could show that the person shouldn’t be doing that job, and that is a case where I think it’s important to let the employer know.

        6. JSPA*

          Say you worked with someone low-level-creepy (l.l.c). Say they attacked you or a coworker sexually one night. Say you found out that the boss had been warned that l.l.c was posting to an incel forum about working with “fresh meat” that was “ripe and ready” and that he was “ready every day to take it.” No names, no dates, no further identifying features, thus no specific directed threat that could be taken to the police.

          A doxer is often exposing a physically harmless person who’s only direct danger is that they’re normalizing a culture of violence against some group. But other times, they’re preventing much worse.

          If it were me working with l.l.c., I’d prefer that the boss get a chance to put the in-itself-non-firing-level, low-level creepy behavior and the frankly-scary-but-not-police-level internet ramblings together in context.

        7. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I can see it now…
          Troll: “I’d like to report someone threatening me on the internet.”
          Police: “We don’t have the resources to chase down anonymous posters on forums.”
          Troll: ” I looked up their name & contact info and they’re in your town.”
          Police: “How did you find their name?”
          Troll: “I got someone to hack the provider’s user database.”
          Police: “May I have your name & number? You just confessed to an illegal activity”

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Nah, you’re overthinking it. I’m pretty sure older millennials and Xers are the only groups of people that were really seriously warned away from using our real names and giving out personally identifying information online as a basic threshold for internet security—and then Facebook showed up with their real name requirements and that nonsense about being true to your authentic self (or whatever).

            All the young people use their real names as their screen names, or list their real names in their profile, along with their location, and it’s not hard to google for like 5 minutes and find out where someone works if they went and signed up for LinkedIn or for a job board like Indeed or Monster.

      2. Sharikacat*

        But if someone is making threats from an anonymous account and yet someone was able to identify the individual anyway, then why wouldn’t your workplace find it bad to be associated with that person? If you are making threats, then you are either immature enough to try to talk tough and menacing from the safety of your own little corner, or you plan to carry out those words. Neither case makes you look favorable to an employer. You’re only on an anonymous account to not involve friends/family/work because you know what you’re doing is wrong and don’t want to be punished for harassing others.

        And to be clear, there is a huge difference between legitimate criticism and harassment. Disagreeing with viewpoints or calling out highly misleading BS is fine. If people can’t handle thoughtful criticism, then they shouldn’t bother posting their views to the entire Internet.

    3. Dragoning*

      Yeah, I can feel this. It’s rough for me to imagine NOT punishing someone being a Nazi online anonymously, but I guess I would have to, in some way, give them the benefit of the doubt that it was thoroughly anonymous and the doxxer might be wrong? As opposed to a photo or confession or some such.

      But I wonder: would the employer who gets the phone call know which scenario it was? I can’t imagine the doxxer would share all that info.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Mentioned above – they doxxed the wrong person even when a photo was involved. The two people looked similar. Not surprising when you have billions of people online.

        One problem is the lack of critical thinking by people who dox and social shame others. They usually use black and white thinking and don’t fact check all the sources before publishing.

        My experience with people who try to retaliate against others for their beliefs is that their logic circuits are broken. There’s other, better ways to deal with it.

        1. TootsNYC*

          the employer always has the opportunity to say, “Oh, that’s not our employee.”
          And an obligation to, I think.
          We’re talking hypothetical, so why wouldn’t we think that it’s as likely that they’ll investigate it as not?

          1. Ego Chamber*

            She was talking about the brats from Covington, and that initial issue self-corrected with the teacher who was supervising the student whose name was originally made public coming forward to say Well, actually, he was volunteering with me at a soup kitchen in a different state (or something, I don’t remember the details).

            I would hope an employer would investigate, or at least talk to the doxxed employee about it, before taking action if the connection wasn’t obvious (an example of an obvious connection where investigation is unnecessary is the publicist who made a racist comment on Twitter before getting on an international flight, then landed and checked her phone to find out she no longer had a job).

      2. Observer*

        “You say that employee Chris is a secret Nazi? That’s shocking. I’d need to have the evidence, preferably with information on how you actually got it.”

        Because, whatever else you do, you do NOT accept the accusation of a random caller without some proof ANYWAY.

    4. Lissa*

      I came here to say something similar. Personally I think the bar should be lower when someone isn’t posting under their real name. If I post under my real name something that can easily be traced back to me, that’s one thing, and I think it’d be reasonable for the boss/manager to take action from giving me a talk to firing me depending on what I said. If it’s anonymous on a forum somewhere and somebody tracks me down, I think the bar needs to be WAY higher as well as measures taken by everyone involved to assure that it really IS me.

      I know there are different views on this, and it’s a spectrum for sure, but I personally tend to fall farther along the “not punishing people for what they say anonymously online” than some here. I understand the other side too, don’t get me wrong.

      I also note some people have a looser definition of bigoted than others. Calling a celebrity online fat is mean, but is it bigoted? I’m in some online places that would say absolutely yes. (For the record I think if I’m calling people fat online and it is attached to my real name my boss would be fine telling me to not do that.) For instance, the Daily Mail recently “outed” a bunch of people who posted nasty online comments about one of the English royals – that just seems odd to me.

      I also think if the boss receives evidence somebody’s saying horrible things online it would also be prudent to take a closer look at how that person treats people – coworkers, customers etc.

      1. JSPA*

        “Nasty” as in, “I’m upset that she’s not a WASP and am going to make monkey noises” vs “it took him HOW long to give up his driving license?!?” are two very different things. That said, if a paper wants a non- anonymous / real names forum, they should have exactly that, as its well within their power.

  6. Cordoba*

    The best guideline I can think of is “would this behavior be a firing offense if it occurred in any other public place”?

    Am I going to fire an employee for getting in an argument regarding fitness if that argument happened at a bar or a restaurant? Haha, nope. Not even if they have strong opinions and/or poor impulse control to the extent of swearing or insulting people. Not my business, not my problem.

    If that same employee got into an argument at the same bar and went as far as bigotry or threats of violence? That’s a different story, and calls into question their fundamental stability and whether they’re a potential safety concern. In this case I say repercussions at work are justified, including loss of employment. Not so much because this behavior “reflects poorly on the employer” as much as that it “reasonably makes the employer not want this person to be hanging around”.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think this is a good rule of thumb.

      People are ridiculous. If you’re going to position yourself as an expert in a subject, you have to expect that some people will question it and/or disagree with you on occasion. Being petty is not a good look.

      1. Amber T*

        Especially when it comes to something like fitness/weight loss/health, because there is no one right answer.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes, exactly.

      And maybe it gets into the employer’s responsibility towards other employees. If I know you grab for gendered slurs or threats when you’re upset, I might have an obligation towards my other employees to intervene and make sure that won’t happen to them.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is a great guideline, and it also covers when responses become problematic. Arguing over fitness is whatevs. But if that argument escalated to bigoted comments or harassing/threatening language? Not ok. Same goes for supporting overtly bigoted policies, engaging in that behavior, etc.

      And honestly, it’s ok for employers to be able to maintain their public image and “brand.” Some “out of work” employee behavior will harm their commercial interests, while other behavior won’t. Although it’s hard to remember to do so, I always tell folks to treat their online presence (including emails) as if it could be disclosed in court. If you’re ashamed of saying it in public, try not to say it online.

      Folks have a right to voice their opinions, political beliefs, etc., but if they’re in the private sector, they don’t have a right to be protected from the consequences of that speech.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I was thinking about that, too. I used to work in marketing in a particular industry, and we were banned from posting publicly on certain forums that discussed related topics. (Think: I worked for a production company and we weren’t allowed to post publicly on review sites discussing our movies).

        This is because the company would be held accountable to those views by their customers, and they wanted to manage what was out there for people to report on. In at least one case, this rule was flouted, and what would have been one small bad review turned into a multi-week coverage because the employee, posting defensively, really fanned the flames.

      2. Emi.*

        I know they don’t have a *right* to be protected, but I think it’s still better for society to have strong norms against firing people for things that aren’t closely tied to work. I’m not talking about things like actual racism, but I’ve seen people claiming that opposing certain healthcare-related policies is literally equivalent to murder.

        A big part of this question is “Should capital get to control public speech?” and the answer to that, generally, should be No.

    4. Nita*

      Makes sense, though I’d add the extra step of “If this sounds serious, do I have reason to believe it’s true?” There’s nothing preventing the doxxer from lying, exaggerating, or being honestly mistaken about the identity of whoever she argued with.

      1. JHunz*

        I think most people would agree that you should not fire someone for anonymized behavior unless you can independently verify their identity.

      2. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

        Agreed, if everything above is legit and the complaint being brought passes what one former boss called the “smell test” then it’s probably time to do an investigation.

        (Smell year for him equaled does this match up with what I know about this employee, or is this accusation out of character for what I know about my employee.)

    5. designbot*

      That’s the line I was looking for. Because the other thing that doesn’t seem to be the case here, but is something I’m sensitive to in my own life, is business-topical issues. Like, if I make my money working for developers and then go protest people who are my business’s own clients or potentials, that’s a risk and I know it. So when I’m chatting on online forums regarding urban issues, I make sure to be a few steps removed from my IRL identity so that if a client saw it couldn’t be reasonable expected to be traced back to my employer.

    6. Johan*

      I don’t know. Just wearing a MAGA cap can and has been nationally misinterpreted as teens harassing or threatening violence or being bigoted or racist, so I’d be careful as an employer getting a call from a random person trying to get an employee fired.

    7. JSPA*

      This… doesn’t apply to anything on p0rn sites, of course. Not videos, not comments. Nor some hookup sites. Nor some fanfic sites. Nor any other site that’s explicit about following different “social contract” rules than we do in “general public”. Furries are gonna greet by virtually sniffing faces or tails, and that’s fine. D-pix are fine on a site for male p0rn. Etc, etc, [oh man, so much etc].

  7. Madame Secretary*

    Adding a new word to my lexicon. Never heard of doxxing before today. Wow. This influencer (another word for the lexicon) is behaving dastardly.

    My firm won’t get involved with social media stuff unless an employee attaches him or herself to the firm publicly on social media. So if you say you work at Teapot HQ and you post something they don’t like, they might say something. Otherwise, they won’t get involved. But I imagine my superiors would be very skeptical about an influencer calling them to complain.

    1. ArtK*

      Doxxing can go far beyond what this “influencer” (Gah, I hate that term) has done. It can mean publishing someone’s personal information and letting others harass the target. It can escalate very badly, even leading to things like SWATting. If you don’t know that term, that’s when someone calls the police emergency number and claims that some horrible violent crime is happening at the target’s address. SWAT are not always careful about analyzing a situation and it can result in someone at the target’s address being killed.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Which has already happened. And they got the wrong person.
        That’s the problem with vigilante justice. The collateral damage is huge.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      You are so lucky not to have heard of this until now. I’m absolutely not being sarcastic. If you have the stomach for something that it can lead to (and has led to!), look up “swatting” and weep.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I don’t think this is the true definition of doxxing, though it falls into the same spectrum of behaviour. Doxxing is when someone publishes your private information on the internet for everyone to see (phone number, email address, physical address, etc.), and is usually done to invite harassment on the person whose information got published. In the worst cases, it can result in the person having to leave their home for fear of their safety or sometimes that person getting injured or killed (see also the related phenomenon of SWATing).

      Because of this, I thought the letter was going to be about what happens in a work place when people who want to harass the person who got doxxed stat calling/emailing/showing up incessantly at the workplace itself. How *do* you deal with that as a company, really, since you can’t just move or change your phone numbers, etc.?

      1. Alton*

        I’ve also seen doxxing used to mean digging through someone’s social media to figure out their personal information for the purposes of harassing them, even if the info isn’t published.

        1. JSPA*

          Its sloppy misuse though. Or “evolution of language, if you prefer”– but not the original meaning. I suppose it’s arguably metonymy.

      2. fposte*

        This is being discussed at university employers right now, because scholars are getting attacked for their research, which is by necessity public and clearly identifies them by name (tbh, I think the field is really behind the curve on addressing this). Some guidelines include prepare a public statement of support from the larger body, prepare the staff with responses and reporting policies, and notify IT.

      3. Mrs_helm*

        Agree with c&c. Root of the term “doxxing” is “putting their documents online”. Those documents would always include identifying info (contact info). It can sometimes extend to identity theft info (passwords, credit cards). It might include other private info the public could find objectionable/interesting (photos or emails of an affair, financials, etc). Dox=documentation.

        Calling someone’s employer, depending on what/why, is at best tattling and at worst harassment. It CAN be appropriate if the behavior is particularly bad, it is obvious who they are and where the work (not a secret screen name), and especially if it relates to their employer’s field.

        But true doxxing is basically an open call for harassment and identity theft. IMO it is similar to incitement or contributing.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Someone named the influencer who’s doing this upthread, so I looked her up, and what she’s doing fits the definition: she’s not just calling people’s employers (the call the employer got might not have even been from her), she’s giving out the contact info and inciting her followers to “help.” If she overestimated her own influence and only a couple people are willing to harass strangers IRL, that doesn’t make it any less doxxing.

    4. BeeBoo*

      Glad I’m not the only one who had to google “doxxing”. I had heard of this happening, just never knew there was a term for it!

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I learned the word awhile back but was sadly well aware of the horrific behavior for many years prior to that “name”being attached to it. Growing up on the internet, I’ve seen so much of it on varying levels, nothing tragic in the end thank God.

      A friend of mine almost lost her job about a decade ago thanks to this kind of thing. Misconduct accusation for a medical professional, argh.

    6. Cassandra*

      A related term common in information-security circles is “OSINT,” short for “open-source intelligence.” It’s shorthand for “whatever a motivated person can find out about a person or organization from public online sources.” There are tools (of varying quality, usability, and thoroughness) to automate it.

      Doxxing is one use of these tools; social engineering (tricking people/orgs into security errors) is another.

      Myself, I tend toward expansive definitions of “doxxing,” but it’s not an argument I spend a lot of effort on. I just want folks to know that harassment and SWATting are not the only dangers to employees and workplaces here.

      1. Hamburke*

        hubby and his infosec friends use the term “OPSEC” (operational security) to describe that kind of info. I personally have “bad opsec” partially because of my volunteer positions and my job which are fairly public facing but mostly b/c I don’t think that it invites trouble, just people who are usually lovely. for reference, Hubby would live in the sticks with his only human contact being the fedex guy if he could get good, reliable internet at a decent price.

        One of our friends had their company do an OSINT audit of them though – basically, the remote team tried to find as much info as they could about each other. Turns out, spouses are usually the weak link. His wife posted a picture of them in their kitchen and the team did some sort of image search and came up with the real estate listing.

  8. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I fully agree with the whole principle. However, arguably it isn’t the employers business if they don’t come across it. I reckon this rule leaves though if it’s hate speech etc.

  9. AnonGoodNurse*

    Had something similar happen, but with a twist. A co-workers ex-girlfriend was the instigator. After they broker up, she reached out via email to a number of people he worked with. (She had met them at happy hour and was able to figure out their email addresses based on the company’s email address scheme). She also called a few people. She mainly said what a jerk he was and that he was a drug abuser. (In our state, its legal. But in our industry, drug tests are mandated by the government. If he was using, he would have been caught and fired. I’m not sure that she knew that.)
    Most people, including management were understanding and supportive of him. But an interesting twist was that she escalated and he decided to get a restraining order. In order to do that, he needed the emails to his co-workers. The company refused to provide them and even fought the subpoena. Given that part of the escalation was her sitting outside the office trying to confront him and continuing to contact other employees, it was… weird… that the employer was fighting so hard against helping him. (One could argue that they actually had an obligation to help him and other employees. Or an interest in shutting down something that was a waste of the employees’ time.)

    1. LadeeDa*

      That is really odd that they wouldn’t supply the emails.

      Does anyone have insight as to what would prevent them from doing so?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s pretty common for employers to fight subpoenas or other requests for internal emails.

        They don’t want to set a precedent that they’ll comply regardless of the reasonableness of the request, and they also don’t want to turn over anything that could have confidential or proprietary business information in it. I know it sounds like her emails wouldn’t fall into those categories, but employers generally want control over whether to disclose information and communications held/saved/sent on their servers.

        1. Ice Storm*

          Forget all of that. They should help their employee. Redactions could be done to confidential or proprietary information. Why would this be setting a precedent? Can’t each situation be decided based on its own merits?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Of course it can—I’m just responding to the question posed about what factors may go into a company’s decision to oppose a subpoena or to refuse to turn over documents in the absence of a subpoena.

        2. Owler*

          I was thinking they must not want to set a precedent. PrincessCBH, Is there a way to contain it within the justification of employee safety?

      2. irene adler*

        Longshot: Maybe they are refusing so as not to set a precedent for other cases they are or might be involved in.

        Why can’t the co-worker recipients of the emails testify as to their contents? Would that suffice?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think you’d run into a hearsay problem because they’re not testifying about what they wrote, but rather, about what the ex wrote. That’s an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted. (Although the ex’s statements could be treated as an admission by a party opponent, but you’d have to have lawyers battle that one out.)

        2. JSPA*

          Was the company preventing the co-workers from taking a screen shot showing the email and associated meta-data? The coworker would then only need to notarize a statement about their own actions in capturing the info.

          If none of the coworkers were willing, that’s…possibly a bit telling in its own right.

          Or was the discovery about her trying multiple variants of names? Is it really necessary to prove that, to make her cease and desist from contacting anyone at that workplace regarding the ex / using work e-mail?

    2. AnonGoodNurse*

      They claimed initially that they wouldn’t supply them unless a subpoena was issued. So he got one. Then they fought to squash it. I left before it was resolved, but my understanding was that they did eventually comply.
      It was made more awkward by the fact that he was a lawyer. So the decision was made by his supervisor. Imagine that.
      It was a terribly managed company. Just about every bad practice you see on Allison’s blog is in practice there. So I wasn’t surprised that they did that.

      1. Elsewhere1010*

        At my last law firm only 30 days worth of emails were archived in off-site storage. The theory was that if the email no longer exists on the server it can’t be part of any discovery motion.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The fact he’s a lawyer and I’m then assuming you’re at a law firm, they fought it because of privacy issues. It stinks but it’s a thing.

      3. AnonGoodNurse*

        We were in house counsel for a major corporation. The legal requirement was to retain all records (including email) for 7 years.

    3. Temperance*

      I’m wondering if they didn’t want to supply these emails because they didn’t want to show their clients that they have a propensity to cooperate with the government and share confidential information without a fight. It seems craptastic on its face, but I can see why.

    4. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

      Something similar happens to a friend of mine years ago. Brief relationship that he ended because she was way too intense and freaking him out a bit. She didn’t take it well and showed up multiple times at the business’ building at the front door. Eventually the police were called when on her last visit she pulled out a butchers knife and threatened to kill herself unless my friend came out right then. She was taken directly to a hospital for a wellness check by the police and a judge gave him a restraining order against her (business was awarded one as well) within 48 hours. But that business cooperated enthusiastically with my friend and turned over phone records and security footage to show the behavior.

    5. AKchic*

      I feel for him. I had an ex-husband who stalked me and I left multiple jobs due to his continued harassment of me, my coworkers, and in some cases, my supervisors (any female supervisor or any POC that was physically smaller than him was subject to harassment. Men were given the buddy-buddy, paternalistic “just checking up on my girl and making sure my kids are protected” routine). Multiple restraining orders did not deter him. Having city, state and federal investigations (I worked on a military installation at one point, then moved to a state prison job, so both had their own sets of investigators when he came sneaking onto property without permission and in violation of the restraining orders and against his terms of release when arrested for violating aforementioned restraining orders).
      He had a legal way of checking on his son, but he refused to avail himself of that option. As far as he was concerned, if things weren’t 100% his chosen way 100% of the time, then he had no way at all and therefore must *make* a way and was the plucky underdog, fighting against an unjust system out to get him. From what I hear, he is still that way. I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure he can’t communicate with me directly.

  10. ISuckAtUserNames*

    It isn’t so much about the speech, but what the speech indicates about the person. Arguing with people online about fitness or knitting or TV shows or whatever general topic is one thing, and only means you have opinions. No big deal. If you threaten violence or post bigoted or racist comments, this indicates that you could be violent or are racist/bigoted yourself (or, even charitably speaking, OK with racism and bigotry), which is A Problem. It’s not about optics or embarrassing the company, it’s about having someone at your office that could pose a threat to other employees or possibly doesn’t think all employees are as human as they are, which is the big problem with violence and hate speech.

    1. Jadelyn*

      This is a really great point – at a certain point, the employer has a responsibility toward other employees who fall into the demographic groups that the bigoted employee is hateful against.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      There’s actually a huge conversation about racism in knitting going on online right now that has involved neo-Nazis, in case you thought there were topics where this stuff couldn’t reach!

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Holy guacamole. I’d shake my fist at the sky and ask, “Is nothing sacred??” But sadly I already know the answer to that one…

  11. Mystery Bookworm*

    I think I could understand a manager maybe digging around a little bit, looking to see if there was anything inflammatory (especially if the topic was relevant to their work, like say, they’re a gym, and thus the online behaviour is more a reflection of the person’s work persona).

    But the burden of proof would really have to live with the complainer. I would be hard-pressed to imagine a realistic situation in which I felt really sympathetic towards someone calling an employer about an Instagram argument.

    Again, I do think this would be a little different if the employee is posting in a capacity that is related to their work, even tangentially, since people might be more inclined to see statements like that as reflective of the employer. Not a firing situation, to be clear, but maybe a boundaries one.

    But if this is an accountant arguing about fitness online, then it’s laughably irrelevant.

  12. Four lights*

    If the caller doesn’t provide screenshots or you can’t find them yourself, I think the employer should be very careful how this is addressed. As an employee, you’ve worked with me for years and know my character. If it sounds like you automatically believe whatever some person told you about me, I’m going to be pretty insulted and start questioning whether I should stay working there.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I’d assume there’d be receipts, so to speak. I can’t imagine a drama-seeking instagram influencer NOT taking screenshots.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Yeah, then you need someone who can do forensics on the images.

          Just a long, deep profound rabbit hole sometimes.


          1. Kendra*

            There is no amount of forensics that can determine that a screenshot is valid. It is trivial to fake it in undetectable ways. (You do the editing in the browser with an appropriate extension, not in the image manipulation software.)

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Oooookay. Now I know that. It makes sense. I was basing the forensics thing on what an acquaintance went through with some doctored images in “revenge Ꝓꝍrn”

            2. Kenneth*

              Yeah it’s frighteningly easy to do that and make it look legitimate. Then when everyone goes looking for the comment, tweet, or what have you, the one presenting the comment as legitimate can just say it was “deleted” or “taken down”. With enough sophistication, you can even manufacture an entire comment that never existed rather than just modify one that was actually made.

              1. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

                I think this is when an employer needs to also take into account what they know about the employee in question, and if possible what they know about the site where the incident happened.

            3. Lanon*

              Outside of subpoenaing the platform the alleged abuse happened on, and then subpoenaing the ISP, there is no way to conclusively prove anything. I can make anyone say anything in a twitter DM in a way you have no way of knowing is fake with 20 seconds and the Q hotkey in my browser.

          2. Nervous Accountant*

            But then I feel like most employers would just rather cut the person loose than to do such a thorough investigation.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          Yup. I actually had someone modify an email I had sent.
          One reason why I always kept copies of the original

      1. Amadeo*

        The trouble with screenshots, especially from a desktop, is they can be edited with the developer’s console in browsers like Chrome or Firefox. I can inspect your comment, open the browser-side HTML and feed in whatever the heck I want your comment to say, with your username attached. I don’t even need photoshop to do this, just the browser’s built-in inspector.

        1. Inca*

          Totally offtopic but here a *government* agency wanted basically a paper printout of a screenshot as proof. I replied that I could forge that in three different easy ways, each of which would cost no more than 30 seconds, so how can that count as proof? They weren’t really interested. (I caved and submitted a paper print out of a screenshot, carefully blacked out anything that they didn’t need to know which put the total impression even more towards the magazine cutout territory, and they accepted.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            Normally the point of the paper printout is your signature attesting to the veracity of the screen shot. It provides documentation of your testimony/evidence.

      2. Observer*

        Screenshots are pretty useless. Aside from the issue of faking them, in these cases you are often talking about people who are using aliases. So, if someone emailed my boss a screen shot of user “gogogo” saying terrible things, and saying “actually gogogo is Observer”, why would my employer believe that?

    2. Construction Safety*

      Yeah, show me the money (evidence)!
      Even then I’d be balancing that against what I knew of the employee.

    3. Murphy*

      Even with screenshots, they should also provide proof that said online person definitely is the employee in question.

    4. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

      Yup, there was an attempted doxxing at my college job. When the complainer didn’t produce any evidence and boss didn’t see any in his own investigation he didn’t punish anybody. He did give all of the student employees a brief warning about thinking before posting and not deliberately “feeding trolls” though.

  13. Was I ready for a career leap?*

    I’ll agree wholeheartedly that the best policy for employers is to allow people to have separate lives outside of work so long as their speech in the public arena does not rise to the level of reflecting so poorly upon their character as to also reflect poorly on an employer being willing to continue to employ them — with the further comment that I think very few things actually will reflect poorly on an employer, and an employer shouldn’t use this as an excuse to police private behavior. (i.e. outside of hateful, racist, bigoted speech, etc. an employer should be capable of stating that the views of their employees individually neither represent the company nor imply either agreement or disagreement institutionally).

    All of that said, I’m always stunned when employees in the U.S. don’t take seriously the reality that employers do not have to act in such a best practices fashion, and 100% can retaliate for benign speech if it happens to offend their sensibilities. I wish it didn’t work this way and don’t think it should, but if you’re working for Hobby Lobby and are a vocal supporter of Democratic politicians, or if you work for daycare center and you’re open carrying your AK-47 into public parks on the weekends, you can’t be surprised if there are consequences for that because your right to expression (in the U.S. at least) does not come with a guarantee of continued employment or of support/agreement from peers/employers.

    It’s a conundrum because I would never advise people not to speak out on issues that matter to them per se. But in general I think people should be more aware that everything from an activist bumper sticker to an overly intoxicated picture on social media is a thing an employer can see and potentially react to negatively, even if its not the recommended course of action for an employer.

    1. Was I ready for a career leap?*

      One caveat, of course: public employers in the U.S. admittedly go by different rules.

    2. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Yes. for all our much vaunted Constitution, this can happen so easily. Good reason to use <> as well as to be as courteous as possible — especially when having an argument.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Oops. I used french-style quotation marks and it tried to turn it into HTML. :-/

        What should be between the sideways carats is “un nom de plume”.

      2. fposte*

        To be fair, this isn’t a right the Constitution protects; it’s therefore only an irony in popular belief.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          That’s what I meant. I shouldn’t have typed in a rush. Yeah, ppl think that somehow it applies to non-governmental life, but…no.

      3. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

        I think this is where there can be lots of mistakes. When I was in school some of my teachers were really focused on teaching us to think as well as to look critically at the documents that are the foundation of our government. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are actually framed as restrictions upon the Government they were creating as opposed to granting privileges and rights to the citizenry. When you look at things such as the much vaunted 1st Amendment (free speech), it talks about what the Government can and cannot do with regards to an individual. However, it does not protect you from the consequences that a private organization may impose for saying things that they have ruled are out of bounds (the often cited example being falsely yelling fire in a crowded building). We also have to remember that the Constitution is a living and evolving document that was first written and ratified in the late 1780’s, and the world and technology have changed greatly in the intervening 230ish years.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Yes I believe the original intent was that you can’t be punished for openly criticising the government. Not that you can say anything you like wherever and whenever you like without facing consequences.

          Sidenote: how great were your teachers!!

    3. Just Elle*

      Yes, I’m with you on this.
      I personally probably fall a little more heavily on the ‘none of my business’ side of things because there is such a danger here of degrading freedom of speech. Personally I’m much more afraid of having passionate debate online these days because of things like this, and I believe debate is important and healthy!
      Its so deeply unfair to put peoples livelihoods in the hands of a kangaroo court run by their employer, especially when the employer hears a heavily biased side of the doxxers story, and only the employees defense.

      Its also just so easy to judge people subconsciously on what offends you personally, instead of what is actually hateful language. For instance, it may be completely reasonable for someone to hold a strong opinion about abortion, but if I fall strongly on the other side of that argument, I might subconsciously hold it against them if I found out about their opinions. Which is why everyone should avoid politics at work! The influencer is purposely violating those boundaries IN THE HOPE that they will prejudice my opinions about my employee and he/she will be negatively impacted at work because of it. And sadly, I’m afraid it might work more often than not.

  14. Feeling Very Old*

    I feel like a real idiot. I googled the phrase but I am still not quite sure what dox/doxxing means. Is it when you have an interaction with someone on-line and then attempt to out them to others? In this instance an employer? Or does the outing occur on-line as well? Posting on social media “These people in the front line of the anti-whatever march are members of such and such and here are their names”?

    1. glitter writer*

      It’s when you target someone online, expose their personal information, and then use or allow it to be used to target that person offline as well. So for example if “Username47” doesn’t like “Username1,,” and publishes username1’s address, phone number, and employer to harass username1 or try to get her fired.

      Your last example — “these people in the front line of the anti-whatever march” — is a good example of how it often works these days. And like anything else, can be used for a net social good (“that guy there is in a video punching this lady in the face, now we know who he is”) or social bad (“let’s harass this person for being LGBT”).

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I’m not sure your fist example is even a good one and that is the problem with mob mentality.

        But guy punched woman in the face it’s clearly bad!

        Well maybe? Maybe she kicked him in the crotch moments before and it was edited out.
        Maybe the woman said something extremely racially inflammatory that you can’t her.
        Maybe the woman has been harrassing and stalking the man for months and then tried to use the protest as an excuse to get close and he defended himself.

        Out of context you often can’t know so that’s why in general I am very much against doxxing and social media mob justice.

        1. glitter writer*

          To be honest I was trying to err on the side of neutral description but the cases where it might — I stress might — perform a net social good are mostly of the “neo-nazi identidied” type.

          Personally I’ve seen internet mobs ruin enough lives that I don’t like it in that case either, but I can see the net social good argument.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            But even then; there was the instance of the guy who was completely mis-identified and his life kind went up in flames for a short period of time because people thought he was a neo-nazi. I have yet to see once where doxxing was a positive force.

            1. Observer*

              Even worse was a newspaper that claimed to have identified one of the Boston Marathon bombers – except that they ID’d a guy who had actually gone been missing some time before and his family was frantic to find him. It turns out he was dead! I can’t imagine what his family was going through during that period.

              1. Lissa*

                That was awful. And there are enough similar cases that I think it does matter. Personally i think the potential harm that could be/has been caused by false identifications (accidental or on purpose) is worse than any good people think can happen by publicly identifying the “right” person who did something bad-but-not-illegal.

        2. JSPA*

          It’s not legal to beat someone for saying a slur. A “direct and credible immediate threat” would be a better example.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes to both, is my understanding. It can vary from pretty simple (I clicked to your insta profile and got your name, googled the name and found you IRL) to pretty complicated (I somehow hacked this website to figure out where “Feeling Very Old” is posting from and got your name and then exposed your identity).

      It’s generally considered bad form.

    3. ArtK*

      It can occur as it did in the OP, or it can be more generally online. By publishing personal information, the doxxer can get others to do the dirty work.

    4. LadeeDa*

      It means when someone researches and broadcasts someone’s real identity online. The OP has used it a little differently– the person researched and found the posters’ real identity for malicious purposes (trying to get them in trouble with their employers)

    5. londonedit*

      Thank you, because I also Googled and am still confused about what it actually means! Also feeling very old :D

      1. Feeling Very Old*

        Hi Londonedit,
        Come sit on the park bench with me and feed the squirrels. Then later we can go back to my house or yours and yell at kids to get off the lawn. There is a very nice early bird special at the diner in town, 5:00 pm I think.

        1. starsaphire*

          I just absolutely love this response.

          I’ll come with you. Will my AARP card qualify me for the Seniors Discount?

            1. Lolli*

              I had to Google Doxxing and Influencer (in the context of “The influencer (or someone on her behalf) was looking up accounts”). I will come sit on that park bench with all of you now.

    6. JG Wave*

      Yeah, both of those things fall under the cover of doxxing. The key aspect is that you connect a person’s online presence with personal information they don’t necessarily want shared–their names, addresses, employers, contact information. Sometimes people will actually use that information themselves, other times they will just post it online (with the implied hope that someone else will call or show up at the person’s home or employer), other times it’s just a matter of making the information more widely available on the internet–say, posting the same info over and over so that when someone googles John Doe, the first results will be related to a scandal involving John Doe doing [offensive thing].

    7. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

      Yes, exactly. Posting somebody’s real name and address online because you had an online disagreement with them.

    8. Beth*

      It’s when you take someone online who is ostensibly anonymous (e.g. posting under a screen name without their legal name attached) and track down their legal name, address, phone #, employer, etc. and use the info to harass them. It can involve posting the info openly and encouraging others (e.g. your followers) to join in the harassment, but the term also covers things like private messages to the person threatening to show up at their house, you contacting their employer directly, etc.

      There are occasional circumstances where people seem to generally agree that doxxing is justified (doxxing active neo-nazis and outing them to their employers, for example, is relatively uncontroversial). But for the most part, outside those relatively extreme circumstances, it’s not considered an acceptable thing to do.

    9. JSPA*

      The situation dances around actual doxing. Formally, doxing would be if the contact info was posted so that multiple people could easily barrage the employer. This is more like… incitement to privately search, possibly share contact info for the purpose of harassment. Possibly done so to avoid doxing rules on the website or local laws or netiquette.

  15. glitter writer*

    I have a background in an industry where more often than not when an abuse target gets doxxed by someone or a group of someones engaging in hate speech, the *target* of the abuse is the one who loses her job. So that’s really not great.

    I’d really like to hope that by 2019 employers have a grasp of how mobbing works online and what kind of behavior is and isn’t okay, and when people who call about an employee are operating in good faith or in bad, but I would also like to hope that I win the lottery tomorrow, lol.

    This answer seems like a good-faith, well-reasoned approach.

  16. Annette*

    To many influencer = scam artist. It’s well documented many drum up drama to gain a following. I would believe my employee over an internet grifter 9 times out of 10. One time = harassment or threats. Otherwise – rise above the fray.

    1. Mimi Me*

      Agreed. A hairdresser friend of mine was contacted over the summer by an “influencer” who basically wanted my friend to create a whole new look for her for free and in exchange the influencer would promote her on social media. My friend is a Master colorist, Master Barber, and has three Master stylists at her salon. There are no walk-ins, it’s always appt only and she’s booked months in advance. In other words, her salon is doing very well and she didn’t need the fake hype from some social media scammer looking for freebies. She was still outraged and actually made our local news because she found out that a few other local businesses, without her reputation, had also been approached by the same person and felt like they couldn’t say no. Turns out a lot of the influencers followers were bot accounts. So people lost time and money. It was sad.

      1. ArtK*

        This goes along with the all-too-familiar “we can’t pay you in money, but you’ll get tons of exposure,” that many artists, musicians and craftspeople hear on a regular basis. Sadly, it works often enough that people will keep on trying.

        My response: People die of exposure.

        1. LCL*

          See “I Hate Music” by the Hillbilly Hellcats. quoting now
          ‘At least it’s exposure,
          that’s what they say,
          but you can die of exposure
          in less than a day.’

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Do you remember the story a few months back about Payless pulling a fast one on a bunch of influencers?

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yup. Look up Belle Gibson/Whole Pantry (the Instagrammer who claimed she’d cured her actually-nonexistent cancer with healthy eating).

    4. media monkey*

      see also neely moldovan (dull and not amazing successful blogger) and her husband attempting to shame her wedding photographer for holding them to the terms of the contract they had signed, trashing her business and then having to pay a lot of compensation as a result.

  17. Alton*

    I feel that employers should typically err on the side of giving their employees the benefit of the doubt unless the accusations are serious enough to demand investigation or come with proof of wrong-doing. I think that random calls insulting someone’s character should be taken with a grain of salt, because while sometimes they’re genuine or contain valid accusations, there’s often an ulterior motive and you don’t know if there’s additional context, such as the caller being an ex out for revenge. Someine who complains to a person’s employer over an unrelated argument on Instagram probably isn’t acting in good faith.

    1. my time is mine*

      It really should depend on the position of the employee how much freedom of expression she has. A blue collar laborer can say almost anything with her name and face as long as it is legal and she does not pretend to be representing the employer. It is a bit different if that person is an executive, in client-facing position or has other confidential task like teacher and the message is distributed to clients, pupils, parents etc. Then the employer can take action if that truly threatens the credibility of the employer, but it should really be due to proven behavior generally considered unethical or clearly contrary to the explicitly expressed values of the employer.
      (B.t.w., threatening and hate speech may be crime, so that may go over the fence)

  18. animaniactoo*

    I think that I want the reporting person to show me the evidence, not just their word for what was happening.

    Otherwise, I agree with Alison’s take – but it bothers me greatly that it’s a phone call without visual proof when the purported visual proof is available.

    And even with visual proof, it’s a conversation first, because visual proof can be faked and I’m going to want to doublecheck that I didn’t take it at face value and take steps that will affect the employee that I can’t take back.

    1. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

      And I think also adding a check by the investigating party of the site where the incident occurred so that context can possibly be gained is helpful too. We’ve all seen cases where something got pulled out of context to make it worse or more inflammatory than it was in it original context.

  19. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    Honestly, I think this is one of those things that ‘you can’t have it both ways’.

    While I in no way endorse or personally tolerate hate speech, threatening behavior, or any of the ‘off the rails’ behavior. I just don’t think you can police that without opening the door to policing other innocuous behaviors. I’ve always held a very firm work/life boundary. And I think everyone should. That means that what someone does on their own time is just that and shouldn’t be open to employer scrutiny or repercussions.

    I also believe that if you knowingly expose your company in your personal life, then it’s fair game. So a person spouting off online (or in person) about their company or while even remotely directly associating with the company (place of employment listed on FB or pictures doing something stupid wearing a company t-shirt) then you have invited the company into your personal actions.

    I truly don’t understand why people are so willing to blur these lines and I can’t wrap my head around why some think it’s ok for employment repercussions in a strictly personal matter is ok. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to fight it, because it’s a losing battle. But it makes me sad that people are so willing to be ok with others having that much control over their lives.

    1. Czhorat*


      Is your position that there is no distinction between hate speech and general disagreements about things like fitness regimes? I find that a very strange concept.

      Not everything is a “slippery slope”; if I think it reasonable for an employer to terminate someone for using racial hate-speech online but do not think it reasonable to fire someone for liking Star Wars more than Star Trek. I see no inherent contradiction here.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        For me it’s because hate speech and violence actually aren’t clear cut and dry?

        When you have only a snippet out of context that may or may not have been edited or is moral grey area which, a lot of things people consider bigoted or violent vary based on your religion, sex, political affiliation, and national origin, then it’s really impossible to police that without getting into a whole mess policing employees outside of work.

        Plus honestly if someone has taken care to not list their employer and not associate them in anyway then I think the employer has even less grounds for dismissal.

        1. Czhorat*

          What if it isn’t unclear though?

          What if it direct, unequivoval hate speech? What if there’s use of racial, misogynistic, or homophobic slurs?

          I am one hundred percent fine with anyone who engages in that kind of speech online losing their job – whether they give their employee’s name or not.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            What if it’s a homophobic slur from 15 years ago when you were a minor and you don’t feel that way anymore and in fact support HRC now?

            Or what of if was last year before you worked there and you learned the error of your ways?

            Or what if you said a violent threat but now you are in counseling for anger management?

            Social media mob justice is wrong. It’s short on facts and I don’t agree that people should be fired and lose their livelihood after getting doxxed when they did not do anything illegal amd the facts aren’t examined.

            1. BethRA*

              That’s a due process argument, not a reason not to decide you don’t want to employ someone turns out to be a rancid bigot.

              Of course people should investigate and examine the facts, of course context matters. But saying employers should do those things is different from saying employers shouldn’t take that kind of information into account at all.

          2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            That’s interesting since a US Congress member just this week had to apologize for hate speech. So apparently our own lawmakers can’t figure out what it is and what it isn’t. How the hell is some random company going to be able to figure it out?

            The answer is, they aren’t. They are just going to fire the person so the bad press goes away regardless if the person did anything wrong or not.

                1. Annette*

                  Seems you shared but did not read. She apologized for unintentionally using an anti semitic trope. Calling that hate speech – borderline defamatory.

    2. Anna*

      Sorry, no. If your personal time is spent advocating for the harm or death of a certain group of people, you can’t hide behind “it’s my personal activity.” You are dangerous and say dangerous things. If you’re a member of a hate group in your personal time, that will impact your work time, no matter how hard you want to believe in those work/life boundaries.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Except what is considered a hate group is subjective.

        And – what if you were signed up by someone else? We had a letter about that.

        What if the posts were from when you were 15 and just parroting your parents thoughts but now you are 30 and learned about diversity in college and divorced yourself from your toxic family?

        What if the Anna they found is actually not you? There was a news article about a man incorrectly doxxed in the Nazi Charleston protests.

        This is really not simple and employers should probably not engage. Frankly the socical media mob justice mentality of late is one of the scariest aspects of the modern living.

        1. Czhorat*

          If that’s scary, imagine how scary it must be to live as one of the minorities targeted by hate groups!

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            News flash – I am.

            And minorities and women have been the victims of mob justice for centuries so yeah it freaks me out that there is so much support for doxxing and mob justice with little to know facts or recourse for the accused to clear their name.

          2. Phoenix Programmer*

            Also not supporting mob justice to not supporting social change, justice, and civil rights.

            I believe change should come from laws, education, diversity, sensitivity, and bias training.

            Not- OMG is that Brian from accounting posting a pizza with a swastika on it? Ya fired!

            Oh it turns out it was actually Brian’s twin brother David AND the photo was actually from an article where he complained about the pizza?

            Whoopsie! We’ll hire him back oh he already took a lower paying job and understandably doesn’t want to work where he is forever remembered as pizza Nazi? Shrugs lol it’s the price for social justice amirite? if your not woke and born woke too bad and any collateral damage along the way is acceptable because the ends justify the means has never turned out bad before.

            1. Czhorat*

              You seem highly fixated on weird outlier conditions, and not really invested in the work we all should do to make demonstrations of actual bigotry as unwelcome as possible in society.

              1. Phoenix Programmer*

                And you are so dedicated to social mob as an acceptable justice tool that you are willing to strawman assumptions of me with zero facts.

                This is exactly the problem with doxxing as a tool and one of the many reasons I disagree with it.

                Not agreeing with doxxing does not a bad Ally make.

                Acting without facts and without considering multiple facets of a situation is inherently amoral in my view and swinging a blunt imprecise tool to get people fired which does real harm is not only irresponsible it will ultimately harm the justice it purports to serve.

                Clapping back at a photo with no context may be in but it’s not a way to lasting change.

                The diminished #MeToo movement post Aziz is a great example of this.

                Also for the record I grew up in the south and participated in LGBT silent days and matches when doing so could get you severely harmed. I held my own family to task on threat of disowent after they sided with the criminal who beat my gay friend and his boyfriend in our notoriously anti-lgbt town. They grew from this and learned.

                So check your facts before you act and in places where you can’t fact check be hesitant to judge.

                1. kittycritter*

                  Just wanted to let you know as a minority woman, I completely agree with everything you posted above about mob justice and why it is not acceptable.

                2. Lissa*

                  I 100% agree with everything you’ve said here. The idea that all but an insignificant number of cases of people doing this are upright citizens calling out the correct person for unequivocal wrongness has not been borne out by reality.

                  Not agreeing with doxxing doesn’t mean I’m “not invested in work we should do to make bigotry unacceptable.” It means I don’t think doxxing is at all an *effective* way to do that, for many many reasons.

                3. Gimme Shelter*

                  Standing in soldidarity with your comment, Phoenix. The social-media mob mentality (even when trying to be helpful—anyone recall the Boston Marathon Bomber fiasco?) is worrisome and dangerous.

                4. Jasnah*

                  I completely agree with you Phoenix and I think it’s pretty awful that Czhorat, whose opinions I normally agree with, suggested that not agreeing with mob justice in principle=being Against The Cause.

                  The ends do not justify the means. Look at the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney pulled him from the project over a tweet he made 15 years ago, which he had already apologized for publicly multiple times. Then it turns out the people clamoring for “justice” were actually right-wing Nazis who wanted him fired for his remarks against the current president. Is this really how we get to a more just society?

              2. Observer*

                Except that these really are not such edge cases. We’ve seen waaay too may cases where there was either mistaken identity, stuff taken out of context or a LOT of leeway in deciding whether something really is hateful or hateful “enough”.

                I do think that there are some areas where an employer can take action, but I think it needs to be VERY limited. It’s just waaay to easy for this to go wrong.

              3. Engineer Girl*

                They aren’t outliers though. It’s happening again and again and again.

                That’s not an outlier but a pattern.
                And that’s what makes it scary. Especially since collateral damage can be very severe.

        2. Anna*

          What is considered a hate group is absolutely not subjective. There are organizations out there that dedicate time, energy, and money into researching what members of said groups do and post and what sorts of activities the groups support. Being labeled a hate group isn’t like some guy deciding BLM is a hate group because they think Black Lives Matter and police shouldn’t kill black people. It’s not people deciding Antifa is a hate group because they stand up to fascism. It is a pattern of behavior, words, and actions.

          The rest of this is getting into sandwich territory.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            While there are reputable sources for what I co sidered a hate group like the Southern. Poverty Law Center there are plenty of people who consider BLM to be a hate group. That’s in part exactly my point.

            While I may consider focus on family a hate group plenty of evangelicals don’t.

            And – this is the part people never address as problematic in believing people should be doxxed and fired based on a screen shot of an anonymous user name – what if its mistaken identity? Happens all the time.

            1. Drago Cucina*

              The Southern Poverty Law Center has had to reverse itself. SPLC had to pay $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz’s Quilliam Foundation after admitting to falsely labeling his advocacy organization as “extremist.” It took them a year and a lawsuit to rectify. It’s one reason I don’t take anyone’s (person or group) “word” that someone is a “hater”.

          2. Annette*

            Decided by organizations like SPLC = subjective. It may not be fully arbitrary, but subjective. Yes.

          3. Observer*

            Antifa is NOT a hate group? Just because they claim to be standing up to fascists doesn’t make them ok. Communists don’t like fascists, either. Does that make them OK? There is plenty of evidence of the same pattern of behavior, words and actions – it’s just that they dress it up better.

              1. Observer*

                Saying does not make it true. Communists are no more or less a group than Nazis or antifa.

                And whether antifa is “officially” a “group” they are NOT a bunch of heroes merely standing up against bigotry.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Acronyms and abbreviations are dangerous in their own way… BLM has meant the Bureau of Land Management for so long that its use here didn’t make any sense to me for several rereads.

        3. animaniactoo*

          All of this is why it needs to begin with a conversation with the employee, not a face value acceptance of what was reported.

          That’s all it means. Not that nobody should reach out or make a report ever. But that the employer has a responsibility to do due diligence on the report that came in.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            So if the employee lies amd says they didn’t do it don’t fire them? At that point it becomes almost unenforceable.

            1. animaniactoo*

              No, but it gives you a point of reference for your own looking into it and seeing what is going on.

              Now you know both presentations, and you can do things like get screenshots that show that a seemingly racist remark has been taken completely out of context and is in fact a more rational and reasonable reply to something else. You can contact an organization to ask who paid for the person’s membership, or note that person has never been seen to engage in a groups prior actions and wasn’t there that day, and so on and so forth.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            Feminist, Atheist,Woman so very much so.

            However I very much disagree with a tool that is imprecise and doesn’t take the time to get facts before acting. I think ultimately it will do more harm to our causes. LGBTQIAS2 rights, reproductive freedom, , economic security, racial bias and sensitivity training and in fact already has. In part because the pro civil rights side has always been stricter with it’s membership then tge opposition so we frequently throw the baby out with the bath water.

            Franken is a victim of this in my opinion. I am glad to see that so far our freshman Muslim congresswoman is not. The #MeToo movement has lost steam and powers due to this. Also so has the BLM movement for that matter as they literally codified doxxing in their demands which was the effective end of the movement in mainstream politics.

          2. Lissa*

            Assuming that everybody who doesn’t agree with you isn’t a member of a targeted minority isn’t particularly accurate! Lots and lots of people from targeted minorities are, for one, bigoted towards other groups. There is a *ton* of debate, discourse and argument about these issues and others in the LGBTQ community (of which I’m part of). If everyone who was a member of a targeted minority felt the same way then there would be waaaaay more consensus on how to deal with problems.

            1. What Just Happened?*

              This just happened at a professional meeting I attended. One person called out the use of homophobic language by another person. The other person is a woman of color. She went on the offensive and painted him across the Twitterverse as a racist. The rallying cry was taken up. Her, documented, history of using bigoted language has been totally overlooked. Anyone who has attempted to slow the mob is proclaimed a racist. Too often social media is weaponized with little regard for the fall out.

    3. Roscoe*

      I agree. The problem I see is that I may be ranting about an ex girlfriend who cheated on me and call her some less than flattering names. I’d hate to have someone dox me, and say I’m “sexist” because of these things. I think even if in a moment of anger toward an ex I would say something, that poses no threat to any of my co-workers and my employer shouldn’t get invovled, even if there are screen shots.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Depends on how you’re ranting, I think.

        Saying “that sl*tty b*tch cheated on me” isn’t great language, but isn’t outright dangerous.

        Something like “I wish I could slash that b*tch’s throat” would be reasonable for an employer to take action about though.

        1. Roscoe*

          I agree. But calling someone a sl*tty b*tch, while isn’t dangerous to you, who is to say that to another person, that language is bigoted or sexist? Like its not universal how 2 people will read that. So they could take that to my boss, and I don’t think that is right

          1. Czhorat*

            To rant in a public forum using language like that is highly concerning; it means that misogyny is part of your worldview, and would make it hard for me to trust you to handle conflicts with women.

            That’s something about which an employer could have a conversation with their employee, at the very least. It certainly is not something which should be tolerated.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              Are you kidding?

              That is phrase is common usage all over the place, online and in RL. I’ve heard from all kinds of different people, every demographic, socioeconomic status, religious/not religious, every political affiliation.

              If everyone were fired because of calling someone a sl*tty b*tch… well let’s just say we’d have a much bigger unemployment problem.

              1. Delphine*

                Just because misogyny is rampant and socially accepted doesn’t mean it’s okay. If a coworker ranted about women and used slurs online I would be wary of them.

              2. Anna*

                Congratulations! You’ve have an idea of how pervasive misogyny is! If everyone were fired for calling someone a misogynistic/racist/ablelist slur, perhaps more people would take some time to examine their casual misogyny, racism, ableism, etc.

                1. fposte*

                  Maybe. But I think unemployed people with few options generally don’t have a lot of time and energy to self-reflect or to seek out people who believe things other than they do. If it was demonstrated that it made people more convinced of their bias, would we still want them fired?

                  It’s a paradox: I don’t want to hang with incels, but I think they’re a lot likelier to be harmful if they only know other incels.

            2. Hats and gloves*

              Ranting publicly about anything is stupid. I cringe hard at TMI type posts, even for happy events. But that’s a person’s choice.

              I’m a woman and in moments of anger and pain I’ve certainly used the above words about other women in private conversations with friends, as well as many other insults about people I don’t like. Guess what, people should be allowed to communicate the way they want to. Anything short of threats of violence can mean different things in different contexts (and to come think of it, my friends and I have certainly made jokes that could seem violent out of context).

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Here’s again where I’ll disagree. I think my line is “Is the words or actions against the law”. If it is, then the person should be reported to authorities. If not, then it shouldn’t be taken to an employer.

          So your first example is a no brainer… not against the law and in fact I’d go so far as to say common usage.

          The second, could be considered a serious enough threat for police involvement. In that case.. yes go to police. But if it’s not against the law, then only reason for going to an employer is vigilante justices. I’m really not comfortable with that, and don’t think anyone should be.

    4. Beth*

      There’s a long history in the US of distinguishing between bigotry/hate speech and basically all other kinds of speech. You don’t have to like the distinction, but it’s well established at this point. Refusing to tolerate hate speech is not a slippery slope to refusing to tolerate more benign personal expression.

      1. Roscoe*

        Even if you are against hate speech, which I am, its a whole separate question on whether I think someone’s livelihood should suffer from it. It has to be pretty major for me to think someone deserves to be fired for it.

        1. Beth*

          I mean, it has to be pretty major to meet the ‘hate speech’ definition, doesn’t it? That’s not a neutral term–it refers to things like highly bigoted and/or threatening speech, above and beyond what your average person would expect to encounter.

          To me, that takes it to a level where employers SHOULD be concerned with it. I’m gay; if one of my coworkers had a history of homophobic hate speech, I would have very little choice but to assume they’re not safe for me to be around. That would put my manager in a position with limited options. Do they ask me to continue to work with this person? Frankly, I’d be job hunting if they tried this–I can’t work somewhere where I’m fundamentally not safe–and I’d also be advising others in my community that this isn’t a safe or supportive workplace for us. Do they try to keep both of us employed and find ways that we never have to interact? That’s not necessarily feasible. Considering the alternatives, firing the employee who did the hate speech seems like the least-bad option to me!

          That equation doesn’t change depending on whether the coworker in question said their hate speech at work or outside of work. If they’re making threats against gay people in any part of their life, they’re not a safe person for me to be around, period. I don’t magically stop being gay at work, and people who hate me for it don’t stop either.

          1. Roscoe*

            I think threatening speech and hate speech aren’t necessarily the same thing.

            Here is an example. I’m not sure if you follow college football. This years Heisman trophy winner had a guy dig through his tweets from when he was in high school. He mockingly called someone queer and possibly the F word. I read the tweets, and it was clearly meant as a joke. Now I’ll acknowledge its a tasteless joke, but using that term doesn’t mean I think that no gay person would be safe around him.

            Or another example, on Big Brother this summer, there was a spanish guy who was a little person. He used the n-word multiple times in describing why you shouldn’t call others a midget. He was trying to make a point. Even if you say that he maybe shouldn’t have said it, I don’t think it rose to the level of hate speech.

            1. Beth*

              So I don’t know that the things you’re describing would rise to the definition of hate speech. But I want to say, I think this is an area where we all need to be very careful about not deciding what counts as threatening for groups that we don’t belong to.

              I do actually feel unsafe around people who use ‘queer’ and other words for LGBT+ people in derogatory ways. It tells me that they see gayness as something to look down on, something that’s an insult; it tells me that if they know I’m gay, they’ll see me as less worthy of respect and basic human treatment than straight people. I will always be wondering if they’re going to lash out over it. Will they physically attack me? I can’t assume they won’t, because plenty of homophobic people will. Will they smear my reputation or otherwise try make me look bad to push me out of my job? That’s a safety thing too, if they’re trying to attack my ability to support myself because they don’t like working with a gay person. If it’s a guy and he hits on me, how far will he push it, will he accept my not being into him? Corrective rape is still a thing that happens. Of course not everyone who uses homophobic language will do these things, and of course some people who used this kind of language in high school have grown up and learned better! But it’s not like the dangerous ones go around with a sign pasted to their forehead. I kind of have to assume that people who treat gayness as less-than are at least a potential threat to me.

              I imagine that many black people feel similarly about white people who use the n-word. I imagine pretty much every marginalized community has similar red flags that they keep an eye out for, which people outside their group may not understand the significance of or even be aware of.

            2. Beth*

              And before people jump on me, I don’t mean that every idiot who used ‘queer’ as an insult 20 years ago should be immediately fired and never employed again. But I do hope that if someone’s actively throwing that shit around now, and their employer learns about it, their employer would consider how it’s impacting their gay employees while determining how to address it. For a first-time sounds-like-they-don’t-realize-this-is-bad-to-do thing, maybe that just means having a conversation and telling them not to do it again. For a consistent problem, maybe it means firing them because they can’t have them making a consistently unsafe environment for other employees.

            3. CanuckCat*

              There’s a difference between not feeling safe and not being comfortable around someone though, and I would still have a problem working somewhere where I was being made actively uncomfortable by one of my co-worker’s public beliefs. In the example you cited, I might write it off as my co-worker doing something dumb when they were a teenager but if a co-worker were to express a public opinion that they wouldn’t want to actively harm LGBT people but were uncomfortable being around them/letting their children around them because the LGBT people pervert minors/convert them to the “gay” lifestyle/are sinning/etc. I would have difficulty having regular interactions with them at work knowing that they’re uncomfortable with who I am as a person – even if I didn’t ever think they’d become physically threatening towards me.

              1. Hats and gloves*

                And a religious person might be uncomfortable working with “sinners”. Who’s to say your comfort trumps theirs? In a pluralistic society, we need to find ways to coexist with those different from us and those with different beliefs. Staying in your own echo chamber at work is not realistic.

            4. Delphine*

              That’s not a “tasteless” joke, it’s a homophobic joke. And I wouldn’t be surprised if gay people didn’t trust him after those comments.

          2. Observer*

            I mean, it has to be pretty major to meet the ‘hate speech’ definition, doesn’t it? That’s not a neutral term–it refers to things like highly bigoted and/or threatening speech, above and beyond what your average person would expect to encounter.

            That’s how YOU interpret it. And that’s a pretty reasonable interpretation. But lots if others go waaaay further. Do you remember the Justine Sacco fiasco? She got fired for “hate speech” – even though what she said would never meet your definition, even if you totally ignore the context and what she was actually trying to say and accept the interpretation of the internet mob.

            In this thread alone, we have someone claiming that someone calling an ex a sl**ty b*** is hate speech, which should lead the boss to firing the person who said it. I might have a lot of contempt for someone who uses that language, but it’s really hard to make the claim that I’m fundamentally unsafe at work if this person works there too, and even if I have to occasionally interact with him.

            1. Beth*

              I don’t remember the Justine Sacco thing, so I just looked it up. Is it supposed to be outrageous that a senior director of corporate communications got fired for tweeting “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”? She was in a role that requires impeccable communication skills, and the kindest possible interpretation of that text is that she didn’t understand how to not be racist on the internet. Those don’t go together.

              1. fposte*

                Have a look at the Jon Ronson book (So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, mentioned on other threads here) and then see what you think. It’s a really interesting book in general and it gives a lot more nuanced take than your statement suggests.

              2. Observer*

                Yes, she failed to understand the dynamics of twitter and on-line mobbing. So, in that sense she deserved to lose her job as a SOCIAL MEDIA PROFESSIONAL.

                However, your response shows the danger of jumping to conclusions, since you clearly never saw the context. She was trying to satirize racism. You can agree that it was poorly done and a bad idea but she’s not the racist bigot she was painted as.

                1. Beth*

                  I don’t think I ever said she was an irredeemable bigot. All I said is that considering her line of work, a major failure to communicate inoffensively online is something that makes sense for her to lose her job over.

                  I did see that there was a huge internet fuss over her story as well, but I think whether that was justified is a different question than whether her employer’s action was justified, and I only intended to talk about the latter question.

                2. Roscoe*

                  @Beth, the problem though is that if the internet didn’t paint her as an irredeemable bigot, her company never would’ve known. I think she did something stupid for what her job was, but people were calling for her job claiming she is racist

          3. Hats and gloves*

            This is a slippery slope. Is being against gay marriage hate speech for example? It’s entirely possible for someone to think that being gay is immoral but that they have no intention on ever attacking a gay person, so their gay coworkers are perfectly safe around them

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        There is also a long history of mob and vigilante justice that would be great if we could not repeat in the modern era like we currently are.

        The court of public opinion is often wrong and short on facts.

        1. fposte*

          Yes. There’s a reason “We did it, reddit!” is an *ironic* meme. See also: the professor who wasn’t at Charlottesville. (We could also get into Justine Sacco stuff as well.)

          I also think that people start to focus on employers not just as possible leverage but as the appropriate final punishment, and they feel that injustice has been served if the offender isn’t fired from their job. But jobs aren’t justice dispensaries, and either the person gets another job elsewhere or they need government aid to support them, which means us paying for the firing. I think too often the story for those seeking firing ends with the firing because it gives them a feeling of achievement, and the implications of the story beyond that need to be considered too.

              1. fposte*

                Again, not clear what you mean there; I’m not sure if you’re talking about the existence of bigotry in general, specific biases, or an individual’s bigotry. But some past prejudices have definitely disappeared over the centuries, and some people who felt one way once feel another way now, so I don’t think I can agree with your statement as framed there.

          1. fposte*

            Maybe I’m misreading you, but are you suggesting the history of mob action is new? It’s really not.

          2. Observer*

            One doesn’t balance the other out. Mob justice rarely does anything to combat bigotry, and is far more often used to support it – even today and even in so called “social justice” contexts.

          3. Lissa*

            Why does the fact that we have a long history of accommodating bigotry mean we shouldn’t worry about mob justice? The two are both wrong but one’s existence doesn’t mean the other is now nullified.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          I don’t see how Canada law applies to the rest of the world. But yes, that would have a specific bearing on Canada employment laws and practices.

    5. KangarooCourts*

      +100. Hate speech is not always black and white – like everything its colored by our individual interpretations. Obviously, you can’t run around threatening or wishing violence on people without serious consequences. There are very clear examples of ‘black’ out there, and those people should be dealt with accordingly (by an actual court of law and/or against actual rules about discrimination). But there are plenty of people who think the President of the US is a bigot/racist, and he somehow became/remained president, so obviously there’s a wide band of interpretation here.

      And I know people argue about how slippery slopes aren’t so slippery, but there are very real and direct lessons in history about how this specific kind of personal ‘social justice’ can lead to tyranny.
      In fact I just finished up Jocko Podcast Episode 155 with Jordan Peterson, and they talk specifically about how kangaroo courts led to absolute social travesties during the Soviet Union, and specifically horrifying acts recounted in “Cannibal Island” by Nicolas Werth.

  20. TN INFP*

    This hits close to home for me, because of something I felt was incredibly unjust that happened when I was in 4th grade.

    When I was in 4th grade one of my best friends got SUSPENDED from school because he called a girl, who was his next door neighbor, a bad name and it happened OUTSIDE of school while they were playing together outside their homes. There was no proof that he even said it, just her word against his and he got suspended for it. I remember how angry I was as a 10 year old, trying to figure out how/why a school’s jurisdiction could reach beyond school. It also scared me that something insignificant from my past could come up and I would get into trouble too – or worse yet, what if someone accused me of something I didn’t do and I get in trouble for it?

    Ever since then, I’ve been staunchly on the side of believing that and schools/employers jurisdiction should only cover school and work and nothing else. It still feels overreaching to me to try to police outside behavior – but then again, this is based on something I consider traumatic that happened as a child.

    1. Maya Elena*

      I bet it was a gendered bad word too. Sounds like the school was ahead of it’s time.

      On a more serious note, I completely agree with you.

    2. pancakes*

      “something insignificant” — You aren’t the sole arbiter of what’s significant and what isn’t. Considering the nature of the punishment in your story, I’m guessing that your friend called the girl the n-word. Can you truly not see why that might have been a significant experience for her?

      1. Observer*

        Can you not see why it’s a problem that he was suspended for an UNPROVEN ACCUSATION that happened in circumstances that were none of the school’s business?

        Also, are you really arguing that a 10 year old sing a word like that is a thing that should continue to haunt the adult, who does NOT use that kind of language?

        1. pancakes*

          Obviously the authorities decided there was sufficient proof to justify suspension. Hollering that the incident was instead “UNPROVEN” isn’t going to convince anyone that your little friend was framed.

          I’m not arguing in favor of anyone being “haunted.” You contorted what I said, apparently because you’re too emotional to discuss the matter lucidly.

            1. pancakes*

              They’re not using the same name but they seem heavily invested in the anecdote, and seem to share the same point of view as the person who told it, so I assumed they’re one and the same. I don’t think it matters much either way, though.

              1. Observer*

                You must be good at the high jump. At least that’s what it looks like from the conclusions you are jumping to.

                And it actually DOES matter because it shows what you consider enough proof to judge accusations on, and it also shows your level of bias. To the point that you are SO convinced that no one else could disagree with you on this, thus all the people who disagree with you must be the same person and you’ll see the facts totally through that filter.

        2. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

          I think my only problem with this is that the school suspended the student for something that didn’t happen on school grounds or while the kids where at any sort of school function or activity. Schools can punish on s/he said – but I think its a bit extreme to extend their jurisdiction to transgressions that happen in a given student’s yard on a playdate.

  21. Kenneth*

    Important clarification in terms here. Doxxing means personal information is being publicly posted online. It’s derived from “dropping docs”, where “docs” means a person’s identifying information, i.e. “papers”. If the information is not being posted publicly, it isn’t doxxing. And there’s no indication from the letter that such is going on. All the “influencer” did is positively identify a person and their employer, which is bad enough, but didn’t post that information publicly.

    But unfortunately this isn’t a new pattern. One such example is when CNN managed to identify positively the person who made the Trump/CNN wrestling meme. And it’s likely to only become more common as time goes on.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t think there’s a specific subterm for “found out the information needed for doxxing, but rather than publish it used it for a one-off attack on the poster by contacting their employer/mom/pet groomer.”

      1. Kenneth*

        Because it’s actually two separate concepts. The first, “found out the information needed for doxxing,” is called “de-anonymizing” – finding the person(s) behind the pseudonym. It’s also been called “unmasking”. It’s a concept that’s existed for a long time, though the term “de-anonymizing” was apparently coined in 2006 according to Wikipedia. What you do with that information determines the secondary label.

        If you publish it online, it’s “doxxing”. And that opens the target up to “dog piling”, which is when numerous people take that information and go after the person in some fashion. Harassment is when it’s just one or a few people doing it numerous times, whereas “dog piling” is when numerous people do it only once or a few times – a reputational DDOS attack, of sorts.

        Once an online mob or a single person with a vendetta has a person’s personal details, there’s potentially a lot of damage that could be done. If there’s a pattern of going after someone – e.g. employer, family, children’s schools, etc. – it’s harassment. But if it’s a one-off thing where the person merely contacts the target’s employer, as in the example above, then it’s just someone being an a**.

  22. Phoenix Programmer*

    I think this gets really really hard with politics especially. Plenty of people in the Pro-life camp consider it murder so is supporting pro-choice violent speech?

    I may not believe that and you may not believe that but as an employer if you decide to police social media usage these are the types of questions you have to wrestle. What if your policies disproportionately result in pro-palestinian Muslims getting dismissed due to the social media policy? Is the policy written so that it itself is not biased against protected groups? And if it is what if the results are still disproportionately so the perception is that it is biased?

    Honestly even bigotry and hate speech is not that clear cut and dry in such a charged political climate. I’m not sure employers should be getting involved at all to be honest. As a society we are deciding that a few off hand out of context statements are roast worthy up to and including losing your job forever.

    I was just thinking about Aziz Ansari this morning and think he is a great example of how polarizing grey areas of “bigotry, sexism, race, and religion” can be.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I agree with you that politics is more complex.

      I think the pro-life/pro-choice debate (an oversimplification if there ever was one) is widely accepted as a divisive issue that reasonable people disagree on. As such, I don’t think an openly pro-choice employee would merit a response, any more than an openly pro-life employee.

      Open hate speech (slurs, threats) are far less acceptable and I do think most people can see the difference between that and a preference for a political group.

      I also don’t think you have to write a particular policy that covers all this, you can deal with things as they come up. If you have lots of people calling to dox your employees, then I think you have another problem.

      1. Wintermute*

        Here’s the problem. You actually can’t punish pro-life employees or you’d be opening yourself up to religious discrimination problems. You could do the opposite, legally, but that’s where it gets really nasty because religion, politics and public opinion can intersect in complex ways.

        I firmly believe that the only winning move is not to play the game, anything else is just taking on risks needlessly.

    2. JG Wave*

      I understand the slippery slope argument but I also think it’s possible to set clear guidelines for both of the examples you provided. Legally, abortion is not murder. It is not considered legal violence the way that, for example, saying “Abortion clinics should be bombed” would be. And likewise, there is a difference between supporting legal rights for Palestinians and sanctioning antisemitic violence.

      There may be grey areas in the very middle, and in those cases maybe it’s best to approach issues from a good-faith standpoint. But I think it’s still possible to identify and sanction the extremes. Like, with the whole issue of outing Neo-Nazis after Charlottesville. If you’re willing to align yourself with a movement that supports genocide, you’ve lost the right to good faith.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Except some of those outed Nazis actually were not Nazis and were not thete and had their entire world upended due to vigilante justice.

        I honestly believe the best option is too not participate in any form of mob justice.

        There was a fantastic episode on Orville about this issue. Mob justice is not right. Doxxing is a mob tool amd players should not engage.

        1. Anna*

          Mob rule can happen with the structures in place to prevent it are corrupt. That’s what we’re seeing now. There is not Internet police force and additionally, the actual police force is unreliable. Letting bygones be bygones is not a good position to take right now.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think being anti-mob action is saying “let bygones be bygones,” though. It’s really important to consider the damage that can be done in all sides and what long-term outcome is sought, not just what the short term goal would be.

            1. Lissa*

              Yeah. I think many people are sure that their own position on what constitutes hate speech/bigotry is of course the sensible, reasonable one that should be widely understood. That’s where you get the “I know it when I see it” stuff, but then you have many different people putting the line in very different places, with a bunch of people sure that where those *other* people put it means they are not to be reasoned with.

              If nothing else I think that would at least prove it isn’t just that easy! There are people here saying “obviously, it’s something that would rise to the level of hate speech legally” but then others saying something like calling someone a b-word or a slur 15 years ago means they should experience consequences today, which isn’t the legal definition at all.

        2. JG Wave*

          Okay, well, yeah, but that’s a separate issue from what your original comment (or at least the part I was responding to) addressed. Obviously I would agree that people shouldn’t be fired over bigoted things they DIDN’T do, and personally I don’t dox people and don’t circulate doxxed information for that very reason. But if people are willing to spread hate speech on social media and their defense is “I’m not posting it at work, and all people have opinions others object to,” I don’t buy that.

          I gave Neo-Nazis just as an example of the types of *opinions* that (I hope) all reasonable people object to, as opposed to abortion and the Israel/Palestine conflict which do in fact have moderates on different sides of the issue, but Charlottesville specifically was perhaps a bad example. I do agree there’s a huge difference between being identified via a photo or video (where there’s a lot of room for error) and something like a social media feed (where there’s often other evidence confirming someone’s identity).

      1. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

        I’m a woman and I know what I think is sexism but plenty of women disagree with me. Damn it really is that hard.

  23. LadeeDa*

    My company doesn’t have any social media policies or guidelines. NONE. I know someday this is going to come back to haunt them, but when I have mentioned it to HR and to our corporate legal counsel, they just shrug. I think it is another indication that they are out of touch and don’t really understand the reach or power of social media.
    Our Twitter account is embarrassing. It reads exactly like what it is — a 58 yr old white guy trying to sound young and hip to appeal to the young people. I had to stop following it because it made me cringe. LOL!

  24. I wasDoxxed*

    What about when you’re being doxxed and need to warn your employer? It happened to me last year– a group of teenagers started coming to my instagram, posting really hateful body shaming things on every single post, including telling me to kill myself. We ended up figuring out who they were, and contacting their parents (they were teenagers; if they think this is ok online, imagine what they’re like in person to other young people and what harm that could do). It kind of blew up because I’m in the media and wrote about it; which led to my personal info being posted on several really ugly forums for people to come and harass me.

    Which meant I had to tell my bosses, because some of that was ending up on our professional social media and websites. It was an incredibly awkward conversation BUT they handled it well; the first thing they did was talk about what legal recourse I might have, I wasn’t blamed, and was supported by my employers (right down to when I had to lock down a lot of my personal social media in ways I hadn’t had to before that did influence what I did professionally). That’s how it needs to be handled– for the person being doxxed it’s a very vulnerable and disturbing experience, especially when you can’t simply unplug from the internet because of your job.

    1. kittycritter*

      That is awful, I am so sorry you went through that! I can’t even imagine…..also, if I was the mom of one of those teenagers I would be so disappointed and wondering where the hell I went wrong with them. I’m glad your managers handled it well in your case!

  25. Indie*

    It really seems like defamation laws would apply. If the ‘influencer’ in question is deleting evidence of what was really said and then using her version of events to deliberately target and affect people’s employment then that would be cut and dried defamation of character in the UK. I know speech is freer in the US to the extent that the burden of proof is on the complainant, but the same principle applies surely? On a practical note employers will want solid proof of something shocking enough to take an interest, e.g. hate speech.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But what she says has to be untrue to qualify as defamation, and it’s unclear that that’s what’s happening. Instead, it sounds like she’s complaining to employers and providing her opinion on why the alleged comments are wrong. Not being able to prove what was said is unreasonable, but even in the UK, truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim.

      1. Indie*

        Yes of course, but my inference was that she was ‘deleting comments’ to hide the truth and ‘used language’ to give an untrue version of events. I think that’s what most of would fear.

        If she is just coyly calling up employers with vague hints or merely stating her opinion of them as unloyal followers of fitness, you would hope the employer would simply hang up on her mid sentence.

        1. Managed Chaos*

          From what I heard, whoever called (very possibly not hers but a fan of hers thinking they are helping) said “did you know your employee is an internet bully?” Which is very subjective.

          1. Indie*

            I think we would hope employers would be sensible enough to ignore subjectivity but whether they would is the heart of the issue really.
            You would hope an employer would say “If it is important enough to call about someone’s employment please cut to the chase, stop hinting around and provide evidence”.
            However if an employer considers mere hints to be damning, then (I think) legally the person has successfully defamed the employee’s character to the employer.
            My defamtion law knowledge is rusty, but I am pretty sure that is one of the tests of whether it is defamatory is: did anyone take the person’s words seriously and did it cost you anything?
            Now if you get canned for true reasons with proof, like they have copies of you sending obscene and unsolicited pictures from your work email, the whistleblower has a defence (that it is the truth) for defaming you.
            I am not sure the person who inspired the letter could defend her ideas of what a bully is well enough in order to reach that defence, but I would be surprised. But you’d need a lawyer in that jurisdiction to know for sure.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      “On a practical note employers will want solid proof of something shocking enough to take an interest, e.g. hate speech.”

      I think this is part of the problem. Since it’s so fuzzy even unsubstantiated rumor could be enough for a company to feel they needed to fire someone.

      Warning… heading into hypothetical territory:
      So imagine I find a picture online of a hate group… doesn’t matter which one. There’s someone pictured that has the same coat as you. I start an internet campaign showing my ‘proof’ of you wearing the coat next to the picture of the hate group supporter. It’s enough that wild rumor starts… people are all over it condemning you, you’re company, and the hate group. Pretty soon the company is getting hate mail, boycott threats, calls, and an internet smear campaign. Do you think a company is going give you the benefit of the doubt. The only thing they can do to calm the internet masses is to fire you.

      1. Drago Cucina*

        Unfortunately not common. “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson is an interesting read on this subject. It doesn’t always go one way. People who have publicly doxxed someone and gotten them fired have ended up with an online backlash that got them fired.

      2. Indie*

        That’s exactly the type of scenario defamation law is for. Because it is the type of claim that rightminded people would care about and the cost is measurable: it has cost you employment but most importantly of all it isn’t true, it is defamatory.
        Lots of people can publish instantly nowadays without realising the legal trouble they can get into without beung sure of their facts, but that ignorance won’t protect them and nor will being vague about their evidence.
        Of course by the time they realise it is illegal their victims have been to hell and back.

        1. Observer*

          The problem is that defamation law doesn’t really help. Even if you can find the person who started the hurricane, the damage has been done. And by and large the people pulling these stunts don’t have the resources to at least make the victim financially whole. As for the reputational harm? That’s often unfixable.

          1. Indie*

            Punishment never does repair anything. It is more about whether it is a suitable reaction? Not in most doxxing situations, no, where it is usually a gather the randos into a pitchfork and villager’s game over nothing more than a difference in opinion.

            But a named person approaching a person’s employer with something reasonably objectionable and plausible? Sometimes that is just the kind of thing you need legal advice with. Not always though of course as it depends what was said.

  26. Tasha*

    About ten years ago, there was a big salacious story about a married woman from Iowa having drunken sex in the restroom at a football game in Minnesota with a stranger. Her employer got so many annoying calls about her that she was fired. I remember thinking 1) what’s fair about that? And 2) what kind of person calls up an employer to complain about a stranger’s behavior? I think it says WAY more about the complainer than the doxxed person.

    1. WellRed*

      I think it always says way more about the complainer. I also wonder if the stranger she hooked up with got the same treatment?

  27. Susan Appelbaum*

    This sounds like the kind of thing Buzzfeed would latch onto and expose. They live for Facebook intrigue. The thought of an article exposing a popular ‘ influencer’ doing this kind of stuff may really appeal to them- and stop the practice.

  28. Crivens!*

    I appreciate the nuance of the answer in the OP! Agreed that bigotry and violent threats should be treated very differently from almost anything else posted online.

    I wanted to share about the experience of being doxxed and having an employer react well to it.

    Several years ago, there was a minor controversy on a site I frequented, on a review of a TV show, of all things. A lot of really bigoted people showed up and started harassing people, especially women. One person escalated to doxxing the author of the article in question and any woman who stood up for her. I was included: they pulled pictures from my Facebook (which I did not connect to my online account in any way), pictures from my nude modeling days, and my real name and location and posted them all on various sites hoping to shame me. Another person used my real name to find my workplace and threatened to call them to try and get me fired.

    I felt pretty lucky in that nothing I said online was something a reasonable company would fire a person for, but I went ahead and told my HR department “someone has been harassing me online, they got my real name, and they may try to call here”. HR was very understanding, let me know about EAP options, and screened all phone calls to or about me until I gave them the all-clear. I would say HR departments should be particularly aware that women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and other groups are especially vulnerable to this kind of online abuse, we don’t “ask” for it in any way, and any reports by anonymous people of this sort should be taken with an entire shaker of salt.

    1. Argh!*

      Sounds like you were visited by the delightful denizens of /b/ on 4chan. Someone trolled them for a dissertation and wrote a book about the experience: “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

    2. Kenneth*

      Almost anyone can be subject to this kind of abuse. I don’t think there’s anyone one group that is “especially vulnerable” given cases I’ve read of online.

      1. Crivens!*

        Read the book “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace”. Marginalized groups are much more vulnerable to doxxing, cyberstalking, and hate crimes online.

        1. TootsNYC*

          well, maybe “vulnerable” is the wrong word–we are all vulnerable.

          But marginalized groups are much more likely to ACTUALLY be doxxed, cyberstalked, etc.

  29. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    A while ago, someone (I think on here) compared public online statements to standing on a street corner and shouting, and that image has stuck with me. If you say something in a public way that a lot of people can overhear, I feel like you have a limited right to try and later claim that what you said was private, personal, or only meant for a small audience.

    In this case, it seems pretty evident that the influencer in question was being a sh*tstirrer, and it sounds like having an (admittedly awkward) conversation with the employee and then leaving things there was the right response on the part of the respective managers.

    Overall, I think people who think there is some kind of bright line between online activity and the “real world” are fooling themselves.

    Granted, in my job, things I say publicly on my own time can be very much my employer’s business: industry ethics don’t stop applying to me when I clock out at the end of the day. If I want to talk about work and express certain opinions, I do so on a locked-down, no-real-names-here, close-friends-only social media account. That’s less “shouting on the street corner” and more “talking at a normal volume in my living room with company.”

    1. Alton*

      I feel like that description of online behavior oversimplifies it a bit. It can be like standing on a corner shouting…or it can be like conversing with friends in a public place and being overheard, or being in a support group and having another member share things you said without your consent. These things are possible, but they’re also situations where one has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

      I think people should absolutely be prepared for the possibility that their online activities could be seen by people they didn’t intend, but a lot of people are doxxed over things that they did not do under their real names or in “public” (that is, someone’s emails or locked social media posts might sometimes be screencapped by people who mean to hurt them). I strongly believe that people are entitled to have a private life that they don’t share with everyone, even if parts of that take place online.

      I’m mainly familiar with doxxing in the context of fandom and published erotica. People who are doxxed in those cases are generally writing erotica or fan fiction under screen names that are not intentionally linked to their real identities and would never be found via a simple Google search, and the people who doxx them often have to do a bit of digging.

      My philosophy is that there are things that I’m not *ashamed* of but that I nevertheless don’t care to share with everyone in my life, and that if I take reasonable measures to maintain separation (like using a pen name for writing erotica), it’s reasonable to expect people to respect that.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        If it’s publicly accessible, there’s no expectation of privacy, full stop. If it’s access-restricted, that’s a different creature, which I did say above.

        I think there’s a notable difference between the type of doxxing that takes active digging, and the type that pretty much boils down to looking at a person’s profile on the same media site the interaction happened on, and finding their employer listed there. People seem to think that the latter is as much “personal and private” as the former, and it simply isn’t.

        I agree that when you’ve taken reasonable steps to create a separation, that ought to be generally (but not universally; there are always exceptions) respected. But I’m also skeptical that that type of doxxing is nearly as likely to lead to firing.

        1. Alton*

          It can be a concern if you’re in a field that often has morality clauses. Teachers sometimes get fired or disciplined for things like writing erotica, doing porn under a stage name years ago, or even just posting pictures of themselves where they’re drinking (but not doing anything crazy). Which is why I decided that I’ll never, ever teach children. I know too many people who have stood to lose everything if someone got it in their head to send their boss a link to some erotic novel they write under a pen name or something.

  30. Crivens!*

    Dang, my comment about my own experience with doxxing got stuck in moderation! I forget, what’s the best way to alert and ask for a comment to be approved? Or is it just “wait it out”, which I’m also fine with.

  31. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

    I experienced something along these lines from an employe standpoint back when I was in college. The “influencer” in this case was locally known to be someone who courted and created drama, but honestly I can’t remember what the topic they centered on was.
    Anyway, they called the boss for our university department and tried to dox somebody (I have no social media then or now, I just think I’m too boring). Boss requested the person send him proof of the allegations before acting. He called a meeting of all student employees, told us what happened, and that it had been 5 days and he still had no evidence of anything inflammatory. He said none of us were in trouble, but as a piece of advice: “triple think before you hit post on anything. And also, don’t feed trolls – it just brings you down to their level which is normally their goal.”

      1. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

        He was a great boss for working with traditional-aged college kids (late teens/early 20’s). He was really good at filtering advice into language that we would understand and actually take in/think about. He also made a concerted effort to stay with the times with respect to what is popular with that demographic.
        He actually retired a few years ago, and I saw that the University gave him a nice send off after 35 years working at and managing the student employees for the school student union.

  32. Fainting Goats*

    At this point in society, if you don’t want to fight this type of thing you really have to make the decision not to engage your opinion on social media. Especially on Social media influencers posts, that is like seeing the news crew asking for opinions and then wondering why your on the news that night. Your not changing anyone’s opinion on the subject, just on their thoughts of what kind of person you are. My MIL feels the need to comment on Facebook on her page and on the news pages about the political happenings and her opinion and then calls my husband crying when she gets clobbered with hate comments.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This is a good point. Influencers are out there to be seen by a lot of people, so when you’re engaging with them… well, you’re also going to be seen by a lot of people! Act accordingly.

  33. Roscoe*

    There is a book I read recently called “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”. It really made me think a lot about this type of thing. And I basically have fallen on the side of I don’t think people should lose their jobs over most things like this. Tweets, Instagram comments, message board posts, are often taken completely out of context, and then our “call out culture” feels that people should be punished indefinitely.

    1. CanuckCat*

      I was not a fan; certainly an interesting take on how individuals can easily get swept up in mob mentality but I found it was too easy (in my opinion) on some of the case studies – possibly because the author spent so much time getting to know them. Do I think that Jonah Lehrer should have been forced to give a public apology? No (though I’m sure the $20,000 payout he got for it eased the way a little). Do I think he should have lost his job and had a big “serial plagiarist” publicly slapped over his name? Um, yes.

      (And the less said about Justine Sacco the better, because while I have a lot of empathy for how her life ended up, tweeting out failed attempts to satirize racism when you publicly list your company in your Twitter bio should be one of the main tenets of social media no-nos).

      1. Observer*

        Yes, Sacco failed as a social media pro. But the vilification she got was just insane. And the people who went after her would have done the same no matter what the job was. And that’s the real problem here. She got ripped to shred as a hateful racist when that jut wasn’t the case.

        1. CanuckCat*

          My difficulty is understanding her thinking it was such a hilarious “joke” that she had to share it with her few hundred Twitter followers in the first place. And when I say this, I by no means think she’s some virulent racist but it reads a lot like someone who makes an off-color remark and when it falls flat, tries to pass it off by claiming they were just joking.

          1. TootsNYC*

            maybe she didn’t think it was a hilarious joke; maybe she thought it was commentary on an injustice.

            My immediate reaction to her tweet was that she was pointing out the injustice, not that she was gloating.

          2. Observer*

            What Toots NY is pretty much what happened.

            The short version of what she apparently was trying to point out is “How stupid do you have to be to think that being white is going to protect you from AIDS?”

  34. Former Computer Professional*

    I’ve had a few attempts at doxxing me. I generally don’t tell people where I work, with the exception of friends and Linked-In. As I use aliases for social media, the doxxers would have to figure out who I am first, and that’s proved to be — so far — harder than the doxxers have managed.

    I work for a very small company, about 25 people total, which is mainly an online business. After the first doxxing attempt I went to my boss and said, “I don’t expect this to happen, but there’s a possibility I’ll be successfully doxxed and they may do anything from complain about me to outright harassing the company over my employment. I’m sorry that this might happen, but I want you to be warned.”

    The CEO told me that if it should happen, the company will support me and will not cave in to such BS.

    1. Argh!*

      Long, long ago I was threatened with doxxing for arguing against Mulder & Scully starting a relationship!

      The person who did it was rather unhinged, and I can imagine her googling me once a week to see where I am in life now. I stay anonymous online (like here) because of people like her.

  35. Jennifer Juniper*

    The manager should also be aware that the employee’s account could have been hacked by someone else. In other words, the employee may not even be the one making the offensive speech.

  36. Perpal*

    I think we are still struggling how to handle and think about online interactions, overall. It makes sense that they can and do influence other areas of our life, same as talking to people on the phone, or in person does. The unique aspect is the quasi-illusion of privacy coupled with potentially everyone with an internet connection, and beyond being able to see it.
    It makes sense for an employer to take notice
    — if it reaches them. Ie, someone calling the employer
    — if it’s potentially going to harm the work environment or business
    What to do with that notice is still difficult. An employee should be supported, not punished if a crazy person latches on to them and starts harassing them, even though it does make things more difficult for the employer. In some ways not unlike getting a physical illness, I suppose. If an employer gets a call that one of their employees is up to no good, I would honestly assume the employee was fine and the caller was a bad actor unless/until I had evidence to the contrary. It would be worth some cursory evaluation but I would tend to assume anyone harassing someone at work is probably in the wrong.
    However, if the employee is clearly doing things that could be damaging to the business, that’s another story. At least in the USA, violent threats online are illegal, if not readily enforceable. Legality aside, I don’t think violent threats are ever acceptable so that would be a conversation about behavior overall. As an employer or coworker, I would worry about where else the employee might find it acceptable to be violent and threatening. I think bigoted speech and inappropriate sexual comments falls under a similar category; implies the employee might contribute to a hostile working environment. Things do get a little blurry in how does non-work activity reflect on a business; I mean I think people should be free to let their freak flag fly on the weekend and still work at *ultraconservative thing* 9-5 M-F, or whatever, but there does have to be some effort to separate the two. Ie, don’t wear your company gear at the annual nude gummy bear wrestling convention, or whatever. And if someone calls to complain “OMG I saw your employee at the Unusual Piercings Bar the other day” just say “I don’t see a problem there” and hang up. (I’m sure allison can suggest something better to brush off bad actors)

  37. Beth*

    I expect that in most cases, the manager would basically go “Why are you telling me this?” and ignore the entire thing. In most cases, whether an employee got in an argument outside of work over something like best practices for fitness really isn’t at all relevant to their employment. Bringing that kind of thing to someone’s employer makes the influencer look absurd and out-of-touch, not the employee.

    If there is a report of an employee making threats or engaging in bigoted speech, though, I would hope that those would be taken more seriously. I don’t mean that the employee would immediately be fired or that the influencer should be instantly believed beyond all doubt–it’s likely a he-said-she-said scenario from the manager’s perspective, especially considering how easy it is to manufacture screenshots–but those are serious things, and it would at least warrant a conversation with the employee (at minimum, a “We got this report, there’s no real evidence behind it so I’m not assuming it’s accurate, but I wanted to let you know about it make sure you’re aware that we would take evidence of this kind of behavior very seriously even if it occurred outside of work” kind of deal). And if the manager’s first reaction to the accusations is something like “Not again!” or “Yeah, I can see Fergus doing that…”, it might warrant more action than that.

  38. Jennifer Juniper*

    Also, in this day and age, it is very easy to be accused of hate speech. For instance, say a skeptic makes a post debunking a televangelist’s claims about faith healing. A fundamentalist comes on and gets offended, calling the skeptic a christophobe. So far, that’s normal.

    The fundamentalist can then dox the skeptic, call their employer, and get the skeptic fired for so-called “hate speech” when they were merely exposing a charlatan.

    1. What Just Happened?*

      Yes. (See comment above) I’ve seen a white man called a racist for trying to stop anti-LGBTQ+ language. It shouldn’t matter who is saying the hateful things. They should be called on it. It shouldn’t matter is calling out the hateful things. They should be heard.

  39. Kristine*

    I’ve been on the other side of this before. My friend was being private messaged on Facebook by a random guy who disagreed with something she said about gun control. He was calling her the N-word and other slurs and threatened to figure out where she worked and come with his gun to “see if [she] can control [him]”. He was sending these messages using a public profile that had his employer linked. He worked in a public facing marketing position.

    I sent screenshots of his messages to the company and let them know this employee may be a danger to customers or other employees who do not share his views on guns and/or are POC. They emailed me back saying the guy would be dealt with and not long after he posted a Facebook status about being “unfairly” fired from his job.

    I’ve had people tell me I should have stayed out of it, called the police instead (my friend asked me not to do this, she’s had bad experiences with police before), or just let the guy get his rant over with, but I stand by what I did. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. irene adler*

      Threats involved. Can’t let that go.
      My option would have been to contact the police, but I understand not doing so at your friends’ request.
      So you took action. Thank you!!
      And- this guy got fired. I’m assuming that’s all that happened to him. He’s not facing charges as well. Hopefully he realizes this and changes his ways. No reason for him to threaten anyone.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I think you handled this well, given that your friend didn’t want law enforcement involved. Threats of violence are in a different category from rants and gutter-speak.

      If I had been the culprit’s manager, the deciding factors for me would have been the (thinly) implied threat (“threatened to figure out where she worked and come with his gun to “see if [she] can control [him]”) and the fact that his profile was public and linked back to his employer.

      And kudos to you for getting screen shots. Not everyone would have had that much presence of mind.

    3. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I still struggle with this one. It’s about as cut and dry as you get.

      He was wrong and he sucks. He got fired – but then what? I doubt it changed his perspective. It was a risk to your friend – companies will often print and show the texts they are discussing. Was it justice? Was it worth the risks?

      1. Observer*

        I don’t understand your questions. What would you suggest? Vaporizing him? Putting him in prison? those are pretty much the only two things that could keep him from continuing to threaten her, andtrying to follow up on those threats. Or are you saying that if you can’t find an action that will definitively stop a terrible behavior we should do nothing about ?

        1. Perpal*

          I think maybe the questions here are a) whether to jump in on someone else’s behalf (it sounds like OP ran it past their friend first and didn’t do thinks they said not to, so OK there) and b) rarely unreasonable people will escalate their behavior in response to something like this, rather than taking the logical path of stopping the behavior. Which is not what happened here and not really relevant to this specific story, but something to consider if faced with the situation again; sometimes a wall of silence is more effective than retaliation. Really requires evaluation of overall behavior patterns.

    4. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

      Yeah, this particular guy was over the top – but he was at least doing it as himself in a profile that linked to his job. He was a potential threat to your friend and also a threat to his coworkers. And he was in a dealing with the public facing job. At the very least he needed a talking to – who knows what happened in that “conversation,” as it could have started as a warning and morphed into you’re not getting this so you are now fired.

  40. MLB*

    There were a few words in that letter that I didn’t know the meaning of, and I’m still not sure I do. So now I feel like a dinosaur. I agree with everything Alison said, and would like to add one thing. If someone calls and claims an employee is harassing them on social media, that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Disagreeing with them, or questioning their theories is not harassment, although some may think it is. As stated in the letter, the OP was blocked from an account for LIKING a legit question. That’s extreme. People on social media have a whole lot of influence on people (whether they’re considered an influencer – a word I recently learned from watching the Fyre Festival docs – or not, and if someone is questioning the legitimacy of their words, they need to be able to explain themselves, not just get offended that someone has the audacity to question them.

  41. staceyizme*

    I think a standard of decorum online should apply in any instance where the company’s reputation could be impacted- BUT, it should be limited in scope to hate speech/ threats of or actual violence and obscenity in the legal sense of the word. Just enough verbiage to make clear that negative spillover onto the company from your online activities will not be viewed positively, without muzzling free speech or infringing on reasonable expectations of privacy.

    1. Argh!*

      I can imagine other instances, too, such as someone in medicine being anti-vaccination, or someone in law enforcement saying heroin should be legalized.

  42. Kevin*

    This happened at my employer. HR got a bunch of weird emails claiming that a specific employee had been “harassing” a high school student online and we “had” to fire him. Turns out the employee had written some not so flattering things about a high school basketball player on a local prep sports site, and the kid and his dad had doxxed him and wanted him to be fired.

  43. Lora*

    Bearing in mind that my knowledge of doxxing and SWATting is basically what women in tech have experienced and what my creepy ex-husband has done, I think employers should handle their communications like this:

    1. ALL calls and emails to the company are routed through single points of contact who have training in how to deal with security threats such as stalkers, doxxing, swatting, etc.
    2. All callers and emails to the general contact info must identify themselves and give verifiable contact information. Otherwise they shall be treated as spam.
    3. All employees receive training on how to respond to calls from people they don’t know. a. Get the contact info b. send them back to the main switchboard or to security c. how to document the call for any potential legal actions.
    4. Managers do not make any determinations or judgment calls about what communications from outside sources constitute threats or legally actionable issues. Those determinations are made by security professionals and legal reviews.

    I understand that for small businesses this isn’t really feasible, but perhaps several small businesses could pool their resources to hire it subcontracted to the group – say, several small businesses all in the same office park or all in the same field. Or maybe this could be something supported by a professional society in the field?

  44. Bazinga*

    I would report the account to Instagram, personally. That’s bizarre behavior.
    As a manager, I would laugh and laugh if I got a call that one of my employees disagreed with someone on Instagram, so I should fire them.

  45. Phony Genius*

    Taken to the next level, in the most extreme circumstances, if the doxxer has a large loyal following, and that following overlaps with the employer’s customer base, it theoretically could affect the bottom line. Highly unlikely, but if the employer sees that the business is genuinely being affected, what’s fair for the employer to do to the employee, and what’s practical to keep the business afloat, might not both be possible.

    1. fposte*

      True. Though a practical employer should also consider the financial impact of a possible backlash to a firing, too.

  46. Mel*

    Employers should be aware that some online personalities will be so aggressive as to begin a harrassment campaign against the company itself for employing that person. They should monitor their social media more closely after recieving this call and have a plan for how to handle such a campaign once it begins.

  47. MattKnifeNinja*

    Having worked in both health care and education, I know people who were flat out fired for less. A lot less. This is why all my social media accounts go by an alias.

    The administrator at both the schools I worked at trolled through Google, Facebook and Instagram. The weirdest “you gotta remove this now” was a teacher who was doing pole dancing as an exercise and posted a vid. She was total covered up, and I didn’t think it was extremely provocative. She almost lost her job over it.

    All my doctor friends who have hospital privileges have somewhere on their contact that they can be terminated over a social media post.

    I don’t agree with the administrations view point, because none of the issues were hate speech or threats. It was “this makes our higher ups nervous” and we hate drama/bad PR.

    Currently if I was doxxed, my employer would be giving me hell about engaging with idiots. Depending if the business name got dragged into, it would be a real miserable discussion.

  48. Nervous Accountant*

    I learned about SWAT-ting just now, and that’s so so so terrifying.

    But I don’t know, I’m two minds about this.

    TW: violence

    Jut a few days ago a woman was slashed in the face while waiting for an Uber/Lyft. The comments on the article that posted it were as expected but oh man there was one guy who said she deserved it for being too beautiful and rebuffing the attackers advances. This (rightfully) enraged a lot of people and there was talk of doxxing. In this case I think it’s perfectly legit and the thought of someone protecting the person who supports an act like that is sickening.

    1. fposte*

      But this is also where I think it’s interesting to consider the difference between a present danger and a moral outrage. If you have a friend who texts while driving, for instance, she’s an active danger; would you support people who report her to her job and get her fired?

      1. Roscoe*

        This is a great example.
        I feel like you will have plenty of people say how its “different”, but it really isn’t. People are definitely more upset with things they find morally wrong than things that are actually dangerous.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, because there’s an emotional reaction to saying such a horrible thing – I sure would NOT want to be friends with that guy. And tbh, yeah, I would rather be friends with someone who texts and drives (but wouldn’t get in the car with them!) I also am aware that it’s a totally emotional reaction and I shouldn’t be making employment decisions based on those either, though.

          Then it also gets into, ok he said that comment recently. He’s probably a tool. If I was his boss and that got reported to me I would start paying REAL close attention to how he treated people at work. Buuuut, what if this was something he’d said 10 or 15 years ago? cause people have also got in trouble for that kind of thing. I don’t know.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I genuinely don’t know what I’d do–or what I’d want an employer to do–in a lot of these situations. It reminds me of that study reported on NPR a few years ago where people perceived a kid as being in more danger if the parent was out of the house meeting a lover than if the parent was out of the house and didn’t realize the kid wasn’t being watched. Basically, people felt that the degree of morality determined the degree of danger. Which of course in reality it doesn’t.

            But I think there are other goals beyond safety, so I don’t want to act like that’s the only reason you could fire an employee or that an employer might want to know. It’s just worth, IMHO, asking what our goal is long-term and whether this genuinely works toward it.

          2. Nervous Accountant*

            True. I believe people can change. But in this particular example, the crime happened last week and the guy commented on it just as recently, so I doubt he changed his colors between then and now. I would still fully support doxxing legit bonafide incels.

      2. Observer*

        I’d actually be more understanding of reporting the texting driver – ESPECIALLY if they drive a company vehicle.

        1. fposte*

          On a logical basis, I get that, and I bet people who’ve lost loved ones to wrecks would be really fast on that too. But I also bet lots of people wouldn’t–it’s a sin they can understand and relate to, so it’s not the same kind of unforgivable.

        2. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

          Yeah, if you’re driving a company car that has name and contact info and you are texting or driving distracted in a dangerous way I will report you. But there is a difference there as you are reporting a car and what was observed as opposed to saying this person posted or said these things that I don’t agree with.

  49. Maya Elena*

    From a legal standpoint, employers can do whatever. From an ethical standpoint, they should really err on the side of “not your business”, even in borderline cases of moderate un-PC ness. Overzealousness in these things can only breed resentment and polarization.

    In particular, bigotry and hate speech seem like such clear lines when we imagine obvious easy examples (e.g. “It’s all the fault of the JEWS!”) But that’s not what people get worked up about.

    For example, let’s say I lurk on an alt-right forum to argue with them or for anthropolgical reasons. Am I culpable of bigotry for 1) agreeing about a true fact that is often used to justify bigotry in the course of an argument, 2) writing something sarcastic that can be quoted out of context, 3) even merely visiting these seedy corners of the internet?

    What if it’s a controversial issue, e.g. illegal immigration, affirmative action, sexual assault policy on college campuses, etc., which is intimately tied to race and gender and class, but doesn’t neatly divide into “bigot vs non-bigot” positions (well you might think it does and I don’t, which is part of the problem)? Plenty of positions on all those issues can be *plausibly* described as “harmful”, “bigoted”, “motivated by subconscious racism”, “privileged”, etc. Without being so but there’s no actual way to prove that you’re not secretly bigoted once accused and so branded.

    I like to think that people are reasonable, and that a blanket enforcement of these niche norms that (as far as I can tell) most people don’t subscribe to is unlikely to become the rule. But who the heck knows. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my employer here.

  50. Jenny*

    I’m kinda wondering if this is the same forum I’m thinking of, where doxxing is unfortunately common. Anyway, I was doxxed once myself and fortunately it was not too harmful as when I decided my career (which involves working with children), I did my best to lower my internet profile. I can only say people need to think about their future careers when they post embarrassing stuff on the internet.

    1. Jenny*

      Also Internet forums and reddit are a hotbed of people who know how to find info on you with just a couple of leads. Never post as “yourself.”

  51. Argh!*

    If the person uses their real name and damages the reputation of the employer, I could see that being fireable. Otherwise, I wouldn’t care what an employee has said online. If they cross the line into making a terroristic threat (e.g., I’ll find you and burn your house down), then that’s a legal issue. Again, if they use their real name, I’d first insist that they remove the offending post if it’s a one-time thing, and instruct them to watch what they say. If the offended party wants to press charges, that’s the same as if it had been said in-person. But if they regularly break the law online, I’d get HR involved.

  52. Managed Chaos*

    I think though the burden of proof goes both ways. In this example, there was no proof the influencer was behind it (it could have been one of her fans, etc).

    1. Beth*

      There’s also no real action against the influencer? I’m not sure why it matters whether it was really her or not.

    2. Rectilinear Propagation*

      I’d argue that once you have an online following, you have a responsibility to not sic your fans on random people even by accident. At a certain level of popularity, it is just a given that mentioning someone else in any negative way will result in some of their followers giving that person grief.

      Made up example: Neil deGrasse Tyson cannot quote retweet someone who tweeted something incorrect about stars with, “This is depressingly inaccurate” and then act surprised when a bunch of his followers start giving that person grief.

      Ideally a famous person could say they dislike or disagree with someone without part of their fanbase seeing that as a call to action but that isn’t the case. And since we all now know that’s what happens, they have to be careful.

      (It’s basically an evil version of slashdotting.)

      1. fposte*

        Hey, I just used the term “slashdotting” in my head yesterday and wondered if it ever got used anymore.

        But yeah, I agree; I think there’s a “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” behavior that people need to be more responsible about.

      2. Nacho*

        I agree with your first paragraph, but not the specific example you posted. Part of of the job of scientists like Tyson is informing about their work, which includes pointing out when people are wrong about it. I’d argue that for scientists dealing with political hot topics like global warming or evolution, there’s an ethical duty to do as much as they can to make sure people know that junk science isn’t right.

  53. fatherofmine*

    I’m probably the minority opinion here, but unless we are talking about speech that truly rises to the level of credible threat or would otherwise get the police involved, a restraining order, etc, I think just about everyone should stay out of it. The online outrage mob is already way too dangerous, and I’m not comfortable putting people’s livelihood at risk because someone somewhere interprets them as bigoted.

    Or worse, some future person interprets their comments, which are today mainstream, as bigoted at some point in the future, because the Internet never forgets. Just ask Brandon Eich, founder of Mozilla, ousted in 2014 for privately opposing same-sex marriage. In 2008. In private. This wasn’t a right wing crackpot; this is the guy who invented JavaScript, probably the most important programming language in the history of computing as far as enabling the masses.

    So I have a real problem with the recent enthusiasm for “deplatforming” offensive speech. And I understand that it’s not about the first amendment per se (see also

    The problem I have is that the standard for what constitues offensive are always shifting. That’s a good thing, and it’s the RESULT of free discourse.

    When you do stuff like this, you freeze out the very discourse that brings progress, by dehumanizing the people on the “offensive” side and forcing their opinions underground. And nothing good ever comes from that, societally:

    “You have the right to say what you want, but you work for a private company and if they want to fire you they have the right to do it.”

    “You have the right to say what you want, but the power company is a private company and if they want to cut you off, they have the right.”

    Speech isn’t free when, if you want to feed your children, you are only free to repeat whatever it was Stephen Colbert said last night.

    “You have the right to say what you want, but the grocery store is a private company. Hope you starve, you racist Hitler, you!” is where we end up.

    1. Jenny*

      Most people I have spoke to (liberals like myself that is) are tired of both woker than woke attitudes and this lambasting a person forever for dumb things the did as a kid.

        1. Lissa*

          I mean attempted rape is a crime so falls in a different category. Dressing as a Klan member – uhm context, were they a member? Or do we mean like one of those stupid “politically incorrect Halloween parties” I remember existing? If the latter, what do you think should be the response when someone did that a long time ago? A sincere apology and maybe a donation to a relevant organization? I mean Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi that one time and the world seems to have forgiven him.

          So I don’t really know – if someone did something awful many years ago like posted a slur online, I think we’re still working out what should be done with the person. Obviously it’s not practical to have every single person who ever did something shitty be exiled forever and never allowed to work again, even if it’s something most kids don’t do. So I don’t know what “should” happen – personally I just want to see that the person has changed their views, because they don’t have access to a time machine to go back to fix it.

          1. Jennifer*

            I agree that I want to see evidence that the person has changed their views. You can’t just say, “That happened a long time ago and I’ve changed,” and expect everyone to just believe you with no evidence. That’s sounds more like being sorry you were caught than true repentance. That seems like what people want nowadays, just immediate forgiveness without any acknowledgment of the pain caused.

            Did you apologize to the people you may have hurt? Did you make effort to educate yourself? It seems not many do.

            1. Lissa*

              Yeah. I don’t really know the answer. I don’t think it’s just a “nowadays” thing either, except that we’re all now navigating this in a super public way – also language is changing much more quickly again probably due to the Internet.

              Have you ever seen somebody demonstrate what passes your test for true repentance/good evidence the person has changed? I feel like any time this comes up the same kinds of things happen – regardless of what happens, a lot of people feel that any sort of statement is just going to be done to get out of consequences. Is it about having a well worded statement? I thought of donating to a charity but again a lot of people could easily say that’s facile. And also that is a problem because that’s super easy for the very rich but for someone who’s working a min. wage job or something, not so much.

              1. Jennifer*

                I don’t know if I have a test per se :) It’s just about looking at their actions in the years since the original incident and seeing if their actions show that they’ve changed. Then their apology seems sincere. I’m not talking about people working minimum wage jobs, but more people in management or public service.

                It’s very similar to #metoo because a lot of the men who apologized after they were caught but it was obvious their attitudes toward women hadn’t really changed as more and more stories started to come out. I realize one has to do with speech and the other is a crime, but they both come down to one person feeling superior to another.

                1. Lissa*

                  Right, that makes a lot of sense. I am a personal believer that one can change/be redeemed/whatever non-religious way of putting that. I think it’d be really important to look at the person’s actions since. I think a lot of people don’t do that though, and just immediately believe the bad thing is how the person “really” is and everything since is just performative, or just apologizing to try to get out of trouble. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone apologize in a way that was generally accepted – people tend to pick apart the wording and find *something* in there they don’t like.

                  I’ll use an example for myself – as a person in the LGBTQ community who’s experienced discrimination and slurs, if I find out somebody used a slur on their social media some years ago, I’ll look at what they’ve done since, and whether I think it’s likely their views have changed. I really *want* people to be able to evolve, I think queer issues is specifically one where a LOT of people were anti-gay marriage up to fairly recently who now aren’t, or used a dumb slur without considering the implications – I want those people to be possible good allies going forward, or at least neutral figures who aren’t harmful. I’m way more interested in going after somebody who currently supports harmful policies than someone who gets accused of being a fake ally because they weren’t always onboard.

                2. Jennifer*

                  I see your point. I believe people can change also. I think I have the opposite viewpoint than you. I think people rush to defend the accused now and push people to forgive maybe when they haven’t quite earned it.

                3. fposte*

                  @Jennifer–that push to forgiveness is an interesting point. I think a lot of that depends on reputation and general standing going in, and then you throw in people’s short attention spans and desire for wrapping things up rather than leaving things hanging. I don’t think we should be damned for life for every bad thing we did ever, but I also think that there’s never really a fresh slate, either; it all counts, it just has to be looked at in context.

                4. Jennifer*

                  @fposte That’s exactly how I feel. I do think there are some people in life that have done things so terrible that they may be irredeemable, but in general, I think people should be allowed to grow. Just give the people that may have been hurt a chance to take it all in and determine if forgiveness has been earned instead of pushing them to accept some canned apology that may not be sincere.

                5. Lissa*

                  I think it also gets to questions of who “gets” to forgive, and what that even means or looks like. I think in the past there was less opportunity to “forgive” people we didn’t have direct involvement – so like, I can forgive my brother and then decide what that looks like in my life, and it’s very different from forgiving a business, politician, actor etc. I don’t really have a lot of personal power in deciding if someone keeps their job since I don’t employ anyone, so whether or not I personally forgive someone is prob. irrelevant. I mean, I personally believe that nobody, even if they did something irredeemable, should be never allowed to have any job or any friends again for instance – that doesn’t help anyone. But there are some positions that I think require a higher degree of trust, so to hold those I’d say it would be more relevant to situation. To be a bit flip about it, I don’t think my barista should be fired for posting a slur on Twitter but maybe a judge should be? Still thinking on this whole issue honestly.

                6. Jennifer*

                  @Lissa I disagree with you there. I’m fine with people who are irredeemable, like Cosby for example, if he ever gets out of jail, not having any friends.

                  I think it’s about your experiences. If you see the rampant corruption in the criminal justice system and there’s a judge posting racist comments online, if your life or the life of someone you love can be affected by that judge, of course, you don’t want him on the bench. If you aren’t in that position, it’s easy to say, “eh, let’s just all forgive.” The people pushing forgiveness on everyone aren’t the most affected by the actions of these people usually. That’s what I’m getting at.

                  Same with the men who feel sorry for all the guys getting accused of harassment. They don’t know what it feels like to be harassed at work.

                7. Lissa*

                  Right, I think that’s the crux of our disagreement – I want the judge off the bench, to have no power to make decisions that harm people’s lives. I don’t particularly care if he gets hired somewhere else where he doesn’t have the power to ruin people’s lives, or if his friends still keep in touch. As for someone like Cosby….I dunno. If he gets out of jail I guess I just don’t want him to ever be able to hurt someone again. Beyond that I don’t really care what happens to him.

                  I think what makes this so hard is a) that the prison system is horrible (I’m not American, I’m Canadian, but we have our own issues here – the prime minister before our current one cut a ton of rehabilitative programs and other things in order to look “tough on crime” but anyway…) so there isn’t really a great “punishment” system to begin with and b) different people are going to make different calls about who’s irredeemable. And I think that’s totally fine on a personal level like if a friend cheats on their partner and some people decide to stop being their friend and others don’t. It just gets messy when it’s on a level bigger than individual.

          2. Jenny*

            People do a LOT of stupid stuff that makes them look back and just want to erase that. Humans do dumb things. I don’t mean rape, or murder, or any of that. People do dumb stuff. If we were all to be held under a magnifying glass and someone used a fine-tipped comb, then they would all find SOMETHING offensive in our past.

            What matters is the person we are today. Pretending that you are enlightened and better than someone for having made mistakes doesn’t really do the world any good.

            1. M&M's fix lots of Problems*

              I think like you that there is a difference between a criminal action and I was a teen and blindly parroted the beliefs of my parents/guardians/family. As long as the teen does nothing criminal they have the ability to grow and challenge the ideas they are raised with to grow beyond them. The question is do they grow/change or do they stay the same? I think its wrong to forever hold against someone things that they say if all evidence shows that they have changed and grown beyond the actions from the past.

              1. Darren*

                So you are saying that as soon as someone does something criminal they no longer have the ability to change and grow beyond whatever made them do something so stupid?

                If that’s the case there is no point in having prisons we might as well just execute everyone that commits any crime over a certain level of severity and ignore everything less than that. Prison’s only have a point if we feel that people can change and grow.

                How are people going to prove they’ve changed? It’s literally not possible you’ll always have people thinking “they are just biding their time”, or “they’ve learned to hide it better”. Nobody can prove they’ve changed, they can not be doing the same stupid stuff but it’s not proof of anything.

                1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

                  I think people can change from both actions and words. I just feel like actions require a lot more proof from the person that they have really changed than words do – because actions in my experience require much more commitment to the thoughts behind them than a word doses.
                  I also don’t think that our prison system here in America (do not know much about other systems in other countries so I will not speak/judge them) do a good job of rehabilitation and preparation for returning to life after release. There are also times when I feel like the system rewards money, because the better your lawyer the lighter your sentence may be. It isn’t perfect but it is the system we spent 200+ years developing, and is the system we are working with.
                  Finally, I think ultimately your actions show who and what you are. If you are constantly surpressing a behavior or thought process, how long is it before you hit an extinction point on the behavior or thought?

            2. Jennifer*

              It’s sad and scary that there are that many people that have said or done racist things. I guess it’s easier to not be fearful or dejected by that if you aren’t really affected by it.

        2. fatherofmine*

          “Attempted rape” isn’t speech, it’s action. Speech is what we are discussing here, so please don’t conflate then.

          There was a time when the Klan was mainstream. A lot of folks still living lived during that time.

          Fifty years from now it is certain things we now think and do that are mainstream will be considered fringe and unconscionable.

          Should we all live out our old age defending our past selves?

          Or do you believe has progress peaked and we are the truly enlightened ones?

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I think it may have felt mainstream to people whose friends were in it too, but it’s only mainstream if you’re, you know, deliberately excluding tons of people from the stream.

              1. Fatherofmine*

                I mean, they got elected, right?

                If by “mainstream” you mean “global” then probably the only thing we can all agree on is Oprah and McDonald’s.

              2. Jennifer*

                My parents who grew up during Jim Crow definitely didn’t think they were mainstream. I don’t think he realizes how offensive that is. “Well, EVERYONE was a Klansman back then. What do you expect? Racism was okay.” No, it wasn’t.

                It’s not that I disagree with free speech but whenever someone starts going on and on about it, when I dig a bit deeper, I always uncover these kinds of views. They have the right to say it but I don’t have to agree.

                1. Fatherofmine*

                  Have you ever eaten meat?

                  Can you conceive of a time in our lifetimes when perhaps that is something that will be spoken of in hushed tones? “Grandpa’s from a different time.”

                  Do you want to be dehumanized for it?

        3. Jenny*

          Well that escalated quickly. I’m talking about stupid childish things we all do. Not level 10 stuff.

          1. Jennifer*

            We all don’t say racist things. Yes, people should be allowed to change, but don’t assume that this is just something that everyone does.

    2. Maya Elena*

      One thing that makes it problematic is the arbitrariness of it.

      Maybe if the doxxing were to get out of control, people en masse will either 1) get too jaded to care, 2) get off social media, or 3) at least codify some rules or standards around what constitutes what level of offensive speech.

      All positive outcomes.

      1. fatherofmine*

        I’d say the doxxing is already way out of control. I don’t see any signs of 2 or 3 happening, though, to my chagrin.

    3. Roscoe*

      I very much agree with me. People on this site, to me, are often busybodies who want to police other people’s behaviors and judge them based on their own moral code. Even if it comes from good intentions, it can have unintended consequences.

      But as with so many things in our lives, and ESPECIALLY at work, I say mind your business.

    4. Jennifer*

      I agree with you that things can get out of control and it seems sometimes people are digging through archives looking to be offended by something.

      On the other hand, if my boss is posting anti-black racist comments on twitter, I want to know that. That could affect MY livliehood. If a local business owner is doing the same, I’d want to know it as well. I don’t want to give someone like that my business. You have freedom of speech but not from consequences.

      The people who are the most dismissive of this sort of thing are usually the ones who are less likely to be on the receiving end of this kind of racism.

      1. fatherofmine*

        I come from a line of Armenian genocide survivors. I don’t look white. So I at least defy your stereotype.

        Work where you want, and spend your money where you want. Your power is constrained by the fact that you are an individual. Where I draw the line is with trying to influence how institutions and corporations do the same, for the reasons in my top post.

        Are the people who offend you with their speech less-than-human because of the their heterodox views?

        1. Jennifer*

          Racism isn’t just not simply “unorthodox.” The fact that you think that tells me all I need to know. Make it a great one.

          1. Fatherofmine*

            So you know that I’m beneath even your contempt (less than human?) because of my words.

            Have a nice day.

      2. Roscoe*

        I’m black, and I don’t agree with social mob justice or doxxing either. I can find a behavior awful, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to report it to someone’s boss.

        If a business owner is doing that, I support your right to choose to not support his business. This is very different, to me, than an employee of a local business doing something anonmyously online and people reporting that to the business owner in order to get that person fired.

        1. Jennifer*

          I don’t think that all black people have to agree on anything so I’m truly asking you this, not trying to start an argument. Would you really feel comfortable with your manager posting anti-black racist comments online? Would it make you start to question their motivation if you got a poor employee review or some kind of negative feedback or were denied a promotion? I would.

          1. Roscoe*

            I think we are talking about 2 very different things though.

            If someone showed me a screen shot of my managers Facebook saying racist things, then I would not want to work for them anymore. That is true.

            My point is though is that if she was commenting on a newspaper article and said some racist things, I also don’t support someone taking a screen shot of it and sending it to corporate for the sole purpose of getting them fired. Like if I went to some random articles where black people are called animals, I could think those people are awful. But I have never once felt the need to try to find out the person information of that person and go tot their boss.

            I think knowing the information can impact whether or not I want to work there, but I don’t agree with mob justice saying that others should be trying to get someone fired.

            I think where me and you differ is (and sorry if I’m putting words in your mouth) that you really don’t care how the information was gathered, you’d want to know and would be grateful. I on the other hand, think its really scummy of the people trying to gather that information and weaponize it.

            1. Jennifer*

              I would care if something that was supposed to be private was made public, like if their computer was hacked or they were recorded somewhere they should expect privacy. But I do think anything posted publicly is fair game.

              I guess we’ll have to agree to differ :)

              1. Roscoe*

                What if it was said on here or reddit under an anonymous name?

                Also, I fail to see how your opinion would be different. If your boss texted her co-worker racist comments, and that co-worker showed it to you, you wouldn’t be ok with that, but would be ok if it was said on Facebook? I mean, the opinions are still the same. If you wouldn’t want to work with them because they said it on facebook, why would you want to work for them if they said it privately?

                1. Jennifer*

                  I wouldn’t either way but I’d disagree with the way the information was gathered. I was responding to this part of your comment, “I think where me and you differ is (and sorry if I’m putting words in your mouth) that you really don’t care how the information was gathered, you’d want to know and would be grateful.”

                  I mean it’s a tough situation. If someone was shady and recorded someone in the privacy of their own home saying racist things, I’d think that was terrible AND I’d be horrified by the comments and look at that person differently.

                2. Lissa*

                  I think also we’re reaching a weird place when it comes to privacy. There was a whole thing in my country where an Uber driver recorded some hockey players badmouthing their team management and then sold it. That’s a big YIKES to me.

                  And like – I really think it would be awful to for instance – say somebody’s ex took their private journal and then published it and it contained bad things. That’s their private thoughts, quite probably a moment in time and maybe not even representative or true. I think some people look at the internet as their private journal, which it really really isn’t.

    5. LCL*

      I agree with this. The online mass outrage machine is frightening and is the biggest non-politician threat to democracy. Yes, that is a strong opinion, and it is my opinion, sincerely believed and typed without any hyperbole or irony intended.

  54. Jennifer*

    Perfect response.

    Threats and hate speech are never okay but some people seem to think that anyone saying something they don’t like or offering constructive criticism is harassing them. If you are a public figure, which it sounds like this person is locally, then you are going to get positive AND negative feedback. That’s the nature of social media. I’d complain to instagram if I were one of these employees. It will take them forever to get back to you, but it’s worth a try.

  55. just another lady engineer*

    i had an online stalker who would email and call the ceo of my (former) employer (a large social media tech company) to try and get me fired because he was mad that i was trying to get more underrepresented folks into STEM. this was the early days of gamerg*te and nobody was listening to those of us who were trying to explain that this was a real issue. i ended up being “laid off” from that job a couple months later. no performance issues, only a couple other people let go at the same time. i’ll never know if that was just my stalker winning or not.
    companies need to have policies for dealing with this sort of thing. they must protect their employees privacy but they must also have a process in place for internal inquiries when abuse/hate speech/etc perpetrated by an employee comes to light.
    i don’t know what the answer is. i have tried to encourage HR at my current employer to implement something like this but if they have it’s not transparent to me. ugh.

  56. Bekx*

    Sooo I just looked up her insta and people are posting the link to this post on it. Just a heads up Alison, for moderation purposes.

    1. Jaguar*

      It will be interesting to see if publicly shaming her has the intended consequence of getting her to rethink her behaviour, as is often suggested is the benefit of harassing people because you don’t like them online. I’m betting it won’t.

  57. This Happened to Me!*

    I have an eBay side-hustle and when a dispute went in my favor, the buyer found my name in my company’s public directory and proceeded to call our Customer Service team, the Legal Department, AND the HR director claiming that was “engaging in illegal behavior.” Then she started harassing me on my direct line. It was MORTIFYING. Luckily, my company rocks. I told her this was between her and eBay and she needed to stop calling me and my office. When she didn’t, our chief counsel wrote her an email telling her she needed to stop. Luckily she did. The next step would have been a formal cease and desist letter. After all this happened, I started doing business under a name that implied I was a different gender, and I got a PO Box to use as my return/business address.

  58. Tony Stark*

    I don’t support doxxing at all. There are numerous incidents where people have been harassed for things it turns out they didn’t do.

    Take a look at the Covington Catholic school *kids* (very important emphasis there). Twitter – including HIGH PROFILE CELEBRITY *ADULTS* – called for their heads. First they attacked, harassed and trolled a KID who WASN’T EVEN THERE because they misidentified him.

    Then they mercilessly attacked Nick Sandemann for something that raw footage eventually proved he didn’t do. His only crime- as a minor- was literally standing there with a smirk on his face.

  59. Anime Ship I Don't Care*

    Well, I had one of these calls about an employee who was defending an anime “ship” on Twitter.
    I don’t care which of my employees watch anime. I don’t care what “ships” they follow or don’t follow.
    Now, if they had been using bigoted/hate language, that would be a different story.

    1. Anime Ship I Don't Care*

      Adding: The caller insisted that I take action because by “supporting this ship, I was supporting pedophila.” There are some boxes of nutter bars out there, kids.

      1. Perpal*

        Just curious, did you tell the caller something to shut them down? Or did you politely listen then toss it?

      2. Frea*

        Oh, you found an anti in the wild. I’m glad that employee had a clearly sensible boss. Antis are best avoided and ignored. Going to guess the caller was probably pretty young? There’s an alarming wave of younger folk that like to plaster ships with the pedophilia label, and it’s a disturbing trend.

        1. Lissa*

          I am so confused and yet intrigued by this comment chain and also feel old. Would this be like someone writing fan fiction about Harry Potter and Snape or something, and that’s why people are freaking out? I remember the Harry/Hermione vs Ron/Hermione epic fights that used to happen so now I’m imagining somebody “going real life” over that and it’s amusing/confusing me.

          1. fposte*

            I hadn’t heard “anti” before myself, so I’m definitely game to get more info! But I’m finding a definition on Urban Dictionary that seems related (pasted verbatim):

            Is a word/term most commonly used in the Kpop music industry. Are people who are against an certain singer or group.

            Antis (usually irrational FanGirls) are always idoits who find the faults and/or negative view on the person they are against(anti). No matter what the person/group does Antis WILL always find some negative flaw in it and put it on blast in attempt to make the whole world think that, that person/group is horrible and deserves to die.”

            Sounds like it’s the same thing but with shipping.

      3. JSPA*

        The fact of the ship itself? Or actual illegal content? (I actually have grave reservations about pedophilia laws that make written fantasy about imaginary characters illegal — if someone wants Dumbledore and Harry or Harry and Snape or for that matter Harry and Voldemort to kiss in some time stream, I have a super hard time seeing “pedophilia” there. But US law may not actually agree, so long as Harry’s (fictional) body is under 18 and the other (fictional) bodies are well over 18. I suppose that could be a legal issue for an employer?

  60. always anon*

    I would argue that using a tool to extract someone’s email address is not a legit above-board method. If the person did not post their email publicly on that site, then that means they deliberately chose the “keep my contact information private setting”. You are exploiting a security vulnerability in a website to obtain non-public information.

  61. Emily Morris*

    On speech, I suppose I’m on the line of “I’ll know crossing the line when I see it.”

    I was once party to an online spat over Controversial Issue and when one party threatened to send other party’s childrens photos to pedophiles, well, yes, steps were taken to contact employer.

  62. Bobboccio*

    I guess the question is, how would the employer apply Alison’s advice, practically?

    Someone calls in and reports that your employee has been participating in a targeted hate campaign against them, and is commenting all of these hate speech items. As the employer, you don’t know if any of it is true, if this person is making a mountain out of a mole hill (like someone in these comments mentioned something similar happened when they “liked” a post questioning a diet regime) and no hate is involved in this online interaction, or if zero of it is true and it’s just an insane person on the phone, being insane? Certainly asking them for proof isn’t going to work well if they are making it up, because that just encourages further interaction from them. I certainly don’t want to start getting more emails from random people on the internet, especially when these people may actually be the harassers and the instigators themselves, and my employees the innocent victims.

    Of course, I don’t have a solution either, and I agree with Alison’s summary that all else being equal, employer shouldn’t be regulating offline communications.

    1. Observer*

      Asking for proof is really the only thing you can do. You simply cannot take action without it. But if it’s really serious, then you also need to act. Again, we’re talking about serious accusations like ongoing harassment or threats.

      For instance, If someone calls and says “Your employee Joe Smith is threatening to blow up Competitor’s store.” If this is true, you HAVE to follow up. But, most of the appropriate responses are really wrong if it’s just a troublemaker calling to make trouble. So, asking them to email you the information they have is your best bet.

  63. Darren*

    I think Allison’s advice on this is spot on, for a lot fo things you can just ignore it as it’s not going to impact you as a business (and is therefore none of your business) but when it might you have to talk to your employee’s find out what’s actually going on and then decide how you are going to handle it.

  64. Nacho*

    IMO this depends a lot on both what the employee said and how public facing they are. If they could in any way be considered a face of the company or one of its projects, then the bar needs to be set a lot higher for what’s acceptable. There are a lot of stories thrown around about lead writers/artists for creative projects being dicks on social media, and that did negatively affect public perception of their work even though it didn’t rise to the level of harassment.

  65. Kiwi*

    I’m with Alison on “As a general principle, though, I’d err on the side of “not an employer’s business” unless it’s hate speech, violent threats, or harassment”.

    My manager had a conversation with me about my Twitter where I discuss generic issues with the industry I work in. Many others in the organisation do the same and I never discussed the organisation, individuals or made defamatory, inflammatory or hateful comments. Others have tweeted indiscreetly about the organisation with no repercussions (freedom of speech being a guiding principle in this industry) The conversation was very uncomfortable as my manager indicated that others had seen my Twitter and were talking about it. I think that the manager just cared about their reputation. It left me feeling like people were gossiping about me (without the courtesy of knowing who), that I was unfairly targeted, that I was being monitored, and that I needed to censor myself. Social media and blogging was something really important to me and which gave me pleasure, and after that all the enjoyment was gone. Not going to lie, it was a factor in me leaving that job.

Comments are closed.