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 Inside the Left’s Online Efforts to Out White Supremacists

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PostSubject: Inside the Left’s Online Efforts to Out White Supremacists   Mon Nov 06, 2017 6:01 am

An anonymous group of vigilantes works to identify racists, a legally gray tactic known as doxxing that comes with plenty of risk for all.

“Fallon” is not her real name. It’s a pseudonym she’s using because she wants to remain anonymous. She knows that can be an elusive goal, chiefly because of people not unlike her.

When I first contacted Fallon, here is what she told me about herself: she’s in her mid-30s; she’s white; she has children; she works a 9-to-5 office job; and she lives in Ohio. She has a voice like a school teacher or a nurse, steady and determined. She loves PowerPoint slides and spreadsheets. She seems organized, efficient and articulate.

She also says she is part of Great Lakes Antifa, a self-described group of anti-fascist activists. Within her local antifa group, she says she is part of an even smaller collective. These are what are known as the antifa “doxxers.” In the evenings and her spare time, Fallon says she researches and reveals the identities of neo-Nazis in America.

Often beginning with nothing more than a name, or even a picture, Fallon says she tracks down people who have attended far-right rallies or meetings, who have sent death or rape threats on the internet, or who are members of white supremacist groups like the KKK or National Socialist Movement. She says she uses property records, tax documents, voter registration databases, social media, real estate websites and real-life surveillance to find them and verify their names and locations.

And then she makes a choice. What kind of dox will she do?

For some of her targets, she says she contacts their church or employer, emailing screenshots of the online abuse they allegedly have perpetrated. For others, she calls their workplaces or colleges to explain that an employee or student says they are a member of a white supremacist group. And in the most serious cases, she says, she publishes their names on sympathetic left-wing news sites, like It’s Going Down. As a result, people aligned with antifa might make posters naming and identifying the individual as a threat, putting them up around the person’s town or community.

While Fallon’s doxxes may have serious consequences, her work is relatively mild compared to some other doxxing cases. In some high-profile instances, doxxing has involved publishing a person’s home address and then actively encouraging people to harass them. In one recent case, Tanya Gersh, a Jewish resident of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer’s hometown Whitefish, Montana, was relentlessly harassed and threatened with phone calls after being named in a blog post on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Andrew Anglin, the editor of The Daily Stormer, posted not only Gersh’s phone number and address, but details about her 12-year-old son, and encouraged readers to harass them.

Fallon says she doesn’t go this far. But she still believes her work is powerful.

“A dox is a digital brick through a window,” she says.

The digital battle that Fallon is engaged in is just one form of combat between elements of the political left and right that has raged throughout 2017. In August, the potential for physical violence burst into the mainstream consciousness when white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. The displays of far-right extremism, sometimes called the “alt-right,” have occasionally been met with an anti-fascist opposition ready to use extreme methods, including violence, to push back. Such antifa members wound up in the clashes in Charlottesville.

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