Muslims in Massachusetts, along with people voicing support for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, are facing a rise in anti-Muslim bias — including online attacks known as doxxing, according to the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Since the Hamas attack on Israel and the escalating war in Gaza, CAIR has fielded dozens of complaints about anti-Muslim acts and online shaming directed at Muslims, said Barbara Dougan, legal director for the Massachusetts Islamic relations organization — and more complaints of hate crimes than in all of 2022. CAIR’s headquarters announced that nearly 1,300 complaints have been reported nationally in the last month.
“What we’re seeing in the employment context is [an] incredible amount of doxxing. And by that I mean pressure put on employers, oftentimes from total strangers — organized campaigns targeting various people to try and get them to lose their jobs or somehow get in trouble for the opinions they have expressed,” Dougan told GBH News.
Local CAIR leaders said they met earlier this week with state Attorney General Andrea Campbell about forming an anti-doxxing task force.
“It was a very helpful conversation to try and flesh out what current laws might apply [to doxxing] and what possibly new ones might help in these situations,” Dougan said.
The attorney general’s office told GBH News that it was “deeply concerned” with the rise.
“Hate, bullying, and harassment are unacceptable and we will continue to engage with our community partners to support impacted communities,” a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office wrote in a statement.
The Muslim civil rights group’s call for action from the state’s top attorney comes just weeks after several Harvard students were publicly named and branded “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites” on a billboard truck roving Harvard Square. They were members of a number of Harvard student organizations who issued a statement blaming the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israeli government actions.
Massachusetts — unlike about a dozen other states — has no statutes against doxxing.
Joan Donovan, a leading disinformation scholar who teaches in the Emerging Media Studies program at Boston University’s College of Communication, said there is also almost no enforcement of anti-doxxing rules across internet platforms.
The result is a potent mix of intimidation and even damage to people’s jobs and career prospects, which is especially visible on college and university campuses, she said.
“The university should be a site of contestation of ideas,” Donavan said. “In the context of this moment, there’s been massive doxxing campaigns against students who support Palestine — and that includes putting their names, their affiliations, anything that you can find out about them into some kind of digital form and sharing it across platforms so it's become weaponized.”
In addition to online intimidation and shaming, Dougan said that women who wear hijabs have been facing much of the anti-Muslim hatred in recent weeks in Massachusetts and nationwide.
“Incidents range from vandalism to being accosted on the bus or the train, going to work, being spit upon,” she said.