Social media users pushing to expose the white nationalists who held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend hastily doxxed a man who was over 1,000 miles away from the event, the New York Times reports.
The rally, which was organised to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in the city honouring Gen. Robert E. Lee, devolved into chaos when white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters on Saturday.
The riots ultimately resulted in the death of a 32-year-old protester named Heather Heyer after a white supremacist James Fields drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators, killing Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Since the tragedy, anti-fascist protesters and social media users have launched a campaign aimed at publicly identifying the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville. The effort is being spearheaded by a Twitter user with the handle @YesYoureRacist, who has tweeted and retweeted several posts identifying rally participants.
However, there are risks to crowdsourcing people’s identities from others on the internet, and University of Arkansas assistant professor Kyle Quinn found that out when he was mistakenly identified as one of the white nationalists at the rally.
The man at the rally was wearing a t-shirt that said “Arkansas Engineering” on it and was quickly mistaken for Quinn, who works at the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas.
After being wrongly identified, Quinn received countless threats online, with users calling him a racist and posting his home address and personal information online, according to the Times. Exposing people online in this way, known as “doxxing,” violates of Twitter’s terms of service.
Quinn and his wife were forced to stay at a colleague’s place over the weekend as a result of the threats.
“You have celebrities and hundreds of people doing no research online, not checking facts,” he told The Times. “I’ve dedicated my life to helping all people, trying to improve health care and train the next generation of scientists, and this is potentially throwing a wrench in that.”
The owner of the @YesYoureRacist Twitter account also made another error when he posted a photo of far-right YouTube personality Joey Salads, in which Salads was wearing an armband with a swastika on it “as an experiment.” However, Salads was not at this weekend’s rally in Charlottesville. The owner of @YesYoureRacist subsequently apologised for the mistake.
Social media users have correctly identified several other participants. One man, Peter Tefft, was publicly disowned by his father after the events of this weekend, and was told he was no longer welcome at family gatherings.
20-year-old college student Peter Cvjetanovic backtracked after a photo of him at the rally was widely shared on the internet.
“I did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was,” Cvjetanovic told Channel 2 News in Nevada. “I understand the photo has a very negative connotation. But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.”
Cole White resigned from his job at Top Dog, a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, California, after being identified online.
“The actions of those in Charlottesville are not supported by Top Dog,” the restaurant wrote on a sign posted on Sunday.
The rally also featured Richard Spencer, a well-known white supremacist, and David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
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