Forms of Internet Witch Hunting
There are a few different ways that internet witch hunts happen; two of those forms are doxxing and internet mobs.
Doxxing is one form of witch hunting where an individual or group finds and releases personal information about a target with the intent to harm the individual and their family. This information could include contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, and more. The attack is similar to blackmail with the intent to force the target to change their actions or beliefs or more personal documents (dox) will be released.
The terrible consequences of doxxing are very evident when the attackers choose the wrong target for the attack. Take for example the case of the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed the 18-year-old Michael Brown. A Twitter account related to the hacktivist group Anonymous released personal information about someone who it claimed was the officer who killed Michael Brown. However, it turned out that the target was not even a Ferguson police officer1. An event such as this can cause great personal and professional harm to the target of the attack.
Internet mobs are another type of internet witch hunt, targeting an individual to publicly protest and shame the target for their actions or beliefs. An example of this is the attack against Walter Palmer, a dentist who was publicly shamed on the internet and in the media for hunting and killing a lion named Cecil2 who was being studied by Oxford University. The witch hunt started as a search to find the person responsible for killing the lion, but it turned to humiliating him and threatening his life as well.
This situation is one example among many where curiosity and hateful feelings turned a protest into a witch hunts targeting an individual to the point of death threats.