The Student Assembly passed Resolution 33: Protecting Freedom of Expression: Anti-Doxxing at its Oct. 26 meeting. The resolution calls on the Administration to proactively protect the privacy and free speech of students from the threat of doxxing.
The resolution follows recent incidents of doxxing — the search for and publishing of private or identifying information about a particular individual on the internet — at colleges as students share their views on the Israel-Hamas war.
Co-sponsored by representatives from a number of student groups on campus, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, the Pan-African Muslim Student Association, as well as a few members of the S.A., the resolution highlights the implications and manifestations of doxxing for the Cornell community.
For instance, the resolution states that media sources such as Canary Mission use “defaming language to ruin the public reputation of those that they post without verifying information.” Canary Mission is a website that exposes students, professors and professionals who have supported pro-Palestine causes, including those affiliated with Cornell. The organization’s About page states it is “motivated by a desire to combat the rise in anti-Semitism on college campuses.”
“Members of Cornell University who take stances have received death threats to them and their families as a result of doxxing,” the resolution states.
The resolution situates itself within the theme of the 2023-24 academic year: Freedom of Expression. The first clause of the resolution quotes the Freedom of Expression Theme Year website, stating, “we encourage Cornellians everywhere to challenge personal beliefs, to consider new ideas and unfamiliar perspectives.”
Some questioned the specific need for the resolution, but Claire Ting ’25, S.A. executive vice president and one of the sponsors of the resolution, said that current resources for students facing threats of doxxing are limited.
“I think the only thing that I’ve received personally as a member of the Executive Board is an email forwarded from the Office of Assemblies with resources from the library about how to prevent doxxing, and the most that tells us is to just lock down your accounts and put social media accounts on private,” Ting said. “This resolution promotes a proactive rather than a reactive approach to preventing doxxing.”
Specifically, the resolution calls on the Administration to directly condemn doxxing and provide health-related, academic and legal support for “students and faculty members whose reputations have been publicly harmed and defamed,” the resolution reads.
Supporters of the resolution also mentioned that if the Administration decides not to support students’ freedom of expression, the Administration should more clearly define the limitations of freedom of expression and how these limitations apply to life on campus.
“I feel that a big part of the Freedom of Expression year theme was designed to protect expression that is going to make money [for the Administration] and now that students are saying things that go against that, they are being doxed, targeted and surveilled,” Undergraduate Representative to the University Assembly Jahmal Wallen ’24 said in an interview with The Sun after the meeting. “So the reason that I thought the resolution should go forward is because I want free speech to be all free speech — free speech to actually have an open and honest community.”
Another measure that the resolution stipulates is to ask that the Board of Trustees consider doxxing and digital harassment next time they update the official Student Code of Conduct alongside the Office of Student Conduct and Community standards, which would create formal repercussions for individuals who dox or digitally harass students.
Supporters also said that the resolution would protect free speech for all individuals — regardless of their identity.
“If this resolution is passed and conversations about the Student Code of Conduct are happening, it is not just for Black, brown and Muslim students as emphasized in this resolution. Just because they are emphasized as groups that have felt victimized doesn’t mean the practice and application of this resolution is exclusive,” Ting said. “At the end of the day, this is something we should all be concerned about. This is something that affects every single one of our spaces.”