On Jan. 18, during the anti-abortion March For Life in Washington, a video went viral of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky allegedly harassing Omaha tribe elder Nathan Phillips. Viewers were outraged, and Twitter users quickly found the location of the school and “doxed” – posted identifiable information – of the alleged harassers.
Doxing is not a new phenomenon. Nothing is private on the internet and, for better or worse, one wrong move can alter your entire life. But these Covington Catholic students were under 18. Even if you think their alleged harassment of Phillips is wrong, shouldn’t their youth protect them from being doxed? After all, no one has the same political opinions now that they did when they were a teenager.
Is doxing ever okay? And if it is, is there a stage of life at which you become an acceptable doxing target? The Foghorn staff holds varying opinions on this.
The first contention is around the meaning of “youth.” For some of us at the Foghorn, high school is when you should start being held accountable for your political opinions. It is also important to note that the school drove the students to an anti-abortion rally, so the school clearly thinks that the students are capable of political thought.
The same group of us also argues that these students, by nature of being white and private school, have a level of privilege that most people do not. The fact that people are talking about their youth is proof of their privilege, as there is a tendency to view white students as younger, more innocent and more naïve than students of color. The argument is that they should be held accountable for their opinions now because they already wield a lot of influence.
However, the other prominent stance from the Foghorn is that these students would need to be over 18 to be held accountable for their political actions and, even then, doxing is an inappropriate method of holding people accountable.
By the time someone is 18, they are given numerous responsibilities like voting and being able to join the military. It is vital to acknowledge Covington Catholic students’ youth and not judge them the same way we would treat an adult who acted in this way.
These students’ political beliefs are still forming – we don’t know what beliefs they’ll have in 10 years. After all, they may be in an environment at school where there isn’t a diversity of thought politically. For all we know, much of their behavior could have been influenced by their parents, their school or their community.
However, just because someone is over 18 does not mean they deserve to be doxed. In this day and age, we have to be very careful with posting people’s information online. It would be one thing if these students were doing something illegal, but some at the Foghorn believe that expressing a political belief – something that is a constitutional right – never warrants the release of private information, no matter how offensive their behavior may be. Especially not if the opinion-holder is legally a child.
The Foghorn is divided on this issue. On one hand, none of us agree with the alleged harassment. But, on the other hand, we think it’s reasonable to be concerned with the normalization of doxing people for their opinions.