Social Media Swarm Snares Arkansas Residents

Aug 14, 2017
Originally published on August 14, 2017 11:09 pm

At least two Arkansas residents found themselves the target of a social media doxxing this weekend, following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent this weekend.

Doxxing comes from the word document and refers to the outing of a person’s real identity on social media to get revenge for something they did.

Or didn’t do, in this case.

A man wearing a red “Arkansas Engineering” t-shirt is allegedly seen rallying for white supremacy in a photo that was circulating on Twitter.  At various points, he was misidentified as University of Arkansas  assistant professor of engineering Kyle Quinn and as white nationalist leader Billy Roper.  The school confirmed that Quinn is not the man in question, and that none of its engineering faculty took part in the Charlottesville rally.

Twitter users had already tweeted out “don’t let your kids near him” and “dude doesn’t need to be teaching anywhere” along with a picture of Quinn.  Quinn responded with tweets of his own, saying that he is not the man in the picture, that he was never in Virginia that weekend, and that he is a proud supporter of diversity at the University of Arkansas.

Quinn did not respond to calls or emails with requests to discuss his misidentifications on Twitter. A story that appeared in the New York Times on Monday indicated that he and his wife had to leave their home and stay with a colleague due to the harassment.   

The man in the picture was also identified as Billy Roper, a white supremacist leader in Arkansas.  He played along with the confusion for a day and a half, and told media that called him over the weekend that he was in fact the man in the red t-shirt.  The man in the picture has the same light red hair color as Roper’s, with a similar beard and eyeglasses.

Still, Roper said it should have been fairly easy to see that it wasn’t him in the picture.  He pointed out that both his arms are covered in tattoos, and the man in the photo has no visible tattoos.

“I didn’t have time to get them lasered off, and then go to the protest, and then get them reapplied just for that weekend, so no, it’s not me.  But I claimed that it was me, to protect the guy who was being doxxed,” said Roper.

Dr. Holly Kathleen Hall, associate professor of strategic communications at Arkansas State University, said the incorrect doxxings offer lessons for both the news media and social media users.

“Unfortunately, in this particular situation things did get out of control.  But social media should be a place where people can safely express their opinion and vent their anger and have meaningful discussions,” Hall said.  

CORRECTION: Speaking of misidentification, a previous version of this story named a second engineering professor who should not have been listed as a target of social media harassment. 

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