Posted on June 3, 2019

Doxxing: The Newest Strategy to Destroy Scientists

Alex Berezow, American Council on Science and Health, May 23, 2019


In October 2015, I wrote an article for RealClearScience that detailed how activists were abusing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by requesting that universities turn over private e-mail correspondence from professors. FOIA is meant to uncover wrongdoing by elected officials and bureaucrats, but activists use it to selectively extract quotes out of context in order to create controversy where none exists.

Nobody knows that better than plant geneticist Dr. Kevin Folta, who has had hundreds of pages of private e-mails published online for all to see (shockingly, by a group of anti-biotech activists who work for UCSF). For years, he has been viciously targeted in a coordinated cyberbullying campaign aimed at destroying him personally and professionally. His crime? He supports GMOs and once accepted money from Monsanto. Quelle horreur!

It doesn’t matter that Dr. Folta never acted illegally or unethically. {snip} In the midst of the FOIA controversy, Nature Biotechnology wrote an editorial in support of Dr. Folta. Ominously, it warned:

This is how demagogues and anti-science zealots succeed: they extract a high cost for free speech; they coerce the informed into silence; they create hostile environments that threaten vibrant rare species [i.e., gifted communicators] with extinction.

Things only got worse. Social media mobs continued to harass not only Dr. Folta but anyone who voiced support for biotechnology. Stephan Neidenbach is a middle school science teacher who runs a popular Facebook page called “We Love GMOs and Vaccines.” The activist mob disapproves, so they tried to get him fired. As I wrote at the time:

Their most recent tactic is to try to get Mr. Neidenbach fired from his school, so they have accused him of stealing from his students and mocking people with intellectual disabilities. Of course, neither of these are true, but that hardly matters… Then, the trolls took it to another level: They targeted his family.


Having failed to destroy Dr. Folta professionally, the activist mob is now going after him personally in a particularly twisted away. Michael Balter, a journalist who was fired from Science due to a “breakdown of trust,” just published incredibly private information about Kevin Folta, including Dr. Folta’s address and bank account information. (I refuse to link to the blog post. Dr. Folta confirmed in an e-mail to ACSH that Balter must have received hacked or stolen documents.)

Publishing someone’s private information is known as “doxxing,” and there is one and only one reason to do it: To encourage the mob to engage in intimidation, identity theft, violence, or worse. {snip}


Update (May 23, 2019 @ 4:34 pm PT): Michael Balter was found to have violated Twitter’s rules. Yet, he’s still tweeting because apparently there are no consequences for bad behavior.