The New York Times shouldn't be in the business of doxxing bloggers

Everyone who's familiar with internet culture knows that publishing the real-world identities of pseudonymous bloggers ("doxxing") is an indecent practice, which has no place in a civilized internet ecosystem.  This is one of the few remaining areas of moral consensus, shared among decent netizens on all sides of the political spectrum.

If we want to have a web culture which allows the most creative people to contribute to the global conversation, we need to promote norms in which people are able to blog under pseudonyms if they want to compartmentalize their internet and real-world identities.

One of my top favorite blogs to read is Slate Star Codex, by Scott Alexander, who is perhaps the most interesting social commenter of my generation, and one who has done more than almost anyone else to promote civil discourse between people with different political views.

Well you can't read it right now (at least, not without using the conveniently located time machine) because, for no particularly good reason that anyone can see, a New York Times editor decided that they wanted to use his real name in an article they were writing (even though the supposedly article was going to focus on his blog).  This is an incredibly out-of-touch move for anyone familiar with Internet culture.

Since Scott is a psychiatrist who helps mentally vulnerable patients, and since he has received death threats in the past, he has very good reasons not to want his blog to show up when people search for his real name.  Hence he's (hopefully temporarily if the New York Times changes course) taken his entire blog down in order to protect himself (you can see read his explanation here).

This makes me very sad.

Fortunately there's still time for the New York Times to change its course.  To help them change their mind, please do me a big favor and help out in one of the following ways:

•  You can sign the petition.  Every additional name helps get their attention.  If you are reading this post, and think that doxxing people is bad, then I'm talking to you.

•  If you have a NYT subscription, please consider cancelling it now, and telling them why you are doing so.  No respectable newspaper should be in the buisness of "doxxing for clicks".  Alternatively you could leave feedback informing them that you will cancel your subscription, if they go forward on this unethical decision.

•  You can also give your feedback to the editor responsible for making the decision.  You can find instructions for how to do so on Scott's takedown page.


About Aron Wall

I am a Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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2 Responses to The New York Times shouldn't be in the business of doxxing bloggers

  1. Anne K says:

    I did sign the petition; thanks for the link. I blog under a pseudonym myself.

    Take care & God bless
    Anne / WF

  2. Signed the petition

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