The next time you're thinking of signing an anti-Trump petition, you might want to be careful: Supporters of President Trump have created and circulated a document with the names and addresses of anti-Trump activists, some of which were culled from public petitions. According to BuzzFeed, the document was posted in a pro-Trump chat room on Saturday night before being taken down, and contained contact information for thousands of people.
The database of names reportedly surfaced on the Discord server Centipede Central. Discord is a Slack-like chat service, and Centipede Central is basically a chat room on Discord created by members of the the /r/The_Donald subreddit. It appears to have been crowdsourced, as it contains detailed instructions for finding the home addresses, phone numbers, and employment information of those who oppose Trump.
BuzzFeed traced the document back a series of threads on 4chan and 8chan, both of which host large pro-Trump communities, and many of the names appear to have come from an anti-Trump petition at RefuseFascism. One Reddit poster called the petition a "wonderful gift" to Trump supporters, as it provided them with a database of names to "crawl through and cross check all the hundreds of antifa sympathizers." Antifa is short for antifascism, a leftist movement that predates Trump, but has been very active in opposing him.
Trump Supporters Have Built A Document to Dox Thousands Of Anti-Trump Activists https://t.co/eP6eZRVfAW— Sarah Lerner (@SarahLerner) May 21, 2017
This episode is a quintessential example of doxxing, a practice in which the personal information of activists — often of the liberal variety — is circulated online as a retaliatory measure against them. Doxxing was a favorite tactic of pro-Gamergate trolls years earlier, and has since been occasionally used by Trump supporters.
The document posted on Centipede Central poses a question to anti-Trump activists: Is it worth signing a public petition with your real name if doing so might result in your personal information being circulated by people on white supremacist message boards? It's a difficult question, and the answer depends largely on how much risk you're comfortable assuming.
Signing a petition with your real name certainly gives more legitimacy to whoever is reading the petition, and in all likelihood, the vast majority of people who signed that anti-fascism petition are going to be just fine. Much of the information could easily be incorrect, for one, but more importantly, there's no sign of an actual widespread campaign to retaliate against each and everybody on it. Your detailed personal information might not even be findable online; alternatively, if you're somebody who changes addresses a lot, there may be so much conflicting information as to where you live that doxxing you is effectively impossible.
On the other hand, it would be foolhardy to assume that signing such a petition with your real name comes with no risk whatsoever. In general, it's extremely unnerving to know that people who dislike you have access to your home address and employment information. In light of these concerns, it might be a little bit safer to sign petitions like this anonymously, or perhaps pseudonymously.
At least one thing is for certain: A segment of Trump's supporters have adopted certain tactics to target opponents of the president, and anti-Trump activists will need to recognize and adapt to these tactics in order to mount an effective and sustained resistance.