A small anarchist group known as the Autonomous Student Media (ASM) is threatening to dox incoming freshmen at the University of Texas in Austin who join the conservative campus groups Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) or Turning Point USA.
“This should not have been a story in the way that it has and frankly it belittles many of the genuine attacks and opposition individuals have faced in the past at the hands of the radical left,” Bonin told The Texan.
“Our only original concern in this issue was to alert incoming freshmen how little they should be concerned about this group in joining YCTUT, so the fact that national media made it as dramatic as possible actually runs entirely counter to what we even wanted to do to begin with,” Bonin said.
Doxxing, the act of publicly sharing “information about someone especially as a form of punishment or revenge,” has been increasingly used as a tool to intimidate or harass political opponents or simply those with different beliefs.
The practice has become a staple for some far-left extremist groups, such as Antifa. However, others have also begun adopting the tactic.
Recently, two former staff members for U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) were charged for doxxing several Republican senators during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings by publishing their personal information online.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Katie Cronin-Furman, an assistant professor of human rights at University College London, called for the “exposure” of Customs and Border Protection agents’ identities and actions to shame them in their home communities. Although the author is careful to say that “this is not an argument for doxxing,” the actions described appear consistent with the aforementioned definition of “doxxing” according to Merriam-Webster.
Now, conservatives in the incoming class at UT are facing similar threats of doxxing.
Last month, a Twitter profile representing the ASM tweeted:
“Hey #UT23! Do you wanna be famous? If you join YCT or Turning Point USA, you just might be. Your name and more could end up on an article like one of these…”
The bottom of the tweet included links to a webpage with a list of YCT student members. The page, dated October of last year, included the students’ personal information. Some even had their employers listed, urging readers to call in an attempt to get them fired.
The ASM describes itself as a “self-organized project within Autonomous Student Network.”
Their goal? “Spread Anarchy, Live Communism!”
They state on their website, “We aim to radicalize student activism on campus beyond the pathetic spectacle of chants and protests that are so non-disruptive to those in power. We believe that any effective movement must engage in direct action tactics that put direct pressure on those in power.”
Beyond the bold statements of their website, the group’s influence on campus is evidently minimal. At the time of this writing, the original tweet had only nine likes, and a few might have been from the 185 replies that were mostly criticizing the group.
In response to their threat, one incoming student responded, “Well, I’m going to join one of these two clubs, so go and add me to the list. Have fun doxing me, not really much to see.”
Shilpa Bakre, a representative from UT Austin, told Campus Reform they were not sure who is behind the ASM: “The anonymous group behind this doxxing is not affiliated with the university, is not a registered student group, and should not present itself in that way.”
For her part, Bonin said that there are probably only a handful of students involved in the group and that Antifa-related activity has even seemed to lessen in the past year.
The UT Austin University Democrats (UDems) also condemned the ASM’s doxxing threat.
“In no world is this behavior acceptable and no student’s personal information should ever be compromised,” UDems President Joe Cascino told The Texan. “As an organization, and especially a political one, we are being vigilant and taking necessary precautions to ensure that nothing similar occurs to members of University Democrats.”
UT Austin told The Texan that they contacted the Texas Attorney General’s Office for help in protecting its community against these threats and subsequently reported the Twitter account for violating Twitter’s terms of agreement.
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.