The political conflict, injuries, and deaths at Charlottesville, Virginia, have prompted strong responses from both sides of the ideological spectrum. One of the most notable actions of left-leaning activists has been the attempt to “doxx” attendees of the “Unite the Right” rally.
As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, Twitter users intimidated and published the personal information of an Arkansas University professor believed to have attended the rally protesting the removal of a historical Confederate monument, only to learn that he wasn’t even in Virginia at the time.
Activists eager to publicly shame participants in the “Unite the Right” rally scoured the Internet to identify individuals caught in photographs. The left-wing Twitter users were encouraged by prominent figures.
One notable Twitter account, called “Yes You’re Racist,” is managed by the communications director of the liberal organization Progress NC Action. Even celebrity actress Jennifer Lawrence told her followers to identify “faces of hate,” as covered by Breitbart.
Under the guidance of “Yes You’re Racist,” the Twitter activists singled out a photograph of a man from the rally wearing an “Arkansas Engineering” t-shirt. They went to the University of Arkansas’ faculty page in search of someone resembling the individual in the picture.
Eventually, the activists targeted Kyle Quinn, a professor who runs a laboratory that researches wound-healing medicines. Quinn’s social media accounts were flooded with hateful messages from people believing him to be the man at the rally.
Twitter users went so far as to publish his home address. Fearing for their safety, Quinn took his family to spend the night at the home of a friend. Quinn stated that he had not even been in Virginia at the time of the Charlottesville incident.
After setting the record straight, the college professor aired his grievances with the online crowd that had nearly ruined his reputation, criticizing the activists and celebrities for “doing no research.” As covered by the New York Times, Quinn said: “You have celebrities and hundreds of people doing no research online, not checking facts. I’ve dedicated my life to helping all people, trying to improve health care and train the next generation of scientists, and this is potentially throwing a wrench in that.”
Although the issue was cleared up, the case of mistaken identity could have been destructive to a man who had nothing to do with the events in Virginia.
The “Yes You’re Racist” account mistakenly targeted another individual, a YouTube user named “Joey Salads,” in response to a circulated picture of Salads wearing a Nazi armband. Users claimed the photo was of Salads at the Charlottesville rally. However, Salads quickly clarified that the picture of him was of an earlier social experiment in which he demonstrated that Trump supporters do not support neo-Nazis.
Interestingly, despite debunking any actual neo-Nazi affiliations, Antifa and other online left-wing activists continued to attack Salads, accusing him of lying about his association with white supremacist groups.
Doxxing is a relatively new phenomenon that has changed the dynamic of political demonstrations. The fear of public reproach and career ramifications may dissuade individuals from organizing politically. Progressive activists, through intimidation both in person and online, are attempting to kill the First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of assembly.
What this means for freedom of speech in America is chilling.