The New York Times reports that University of Arkansas professor Kyle Quinn was over 1,000 miles away in Bentonville, Arkansas Friday night with his wife while having dinner and viewing an art exhibition, but left-wing zealots claimed he marched with a white supremacist in Charlottesville at the time.
On Saturday, Quinn woke up to discover that internet activists were naming him as one of the neo-Nazis at the Charlottesville riot. They had incorrectly identified his picture from video footage and posted it all over social media with his name, accusing him of being part of the racist crowd.
The error apparently arose because there was an individual at the riot wearing an “Arkansas Engineering” t-shirt, and Quinn happens to teach in the faculty. The guy in the video had a beard – Quinn also sports a beard.
With the supposed evidence, the cyber-mob was dispatched.
Quinn was assaulted by a barrage of profanity, vulgarity and ugliness on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. The messages called him a dirty racist and demanded the university fire him. His critics also provided his address. Quinn subsequently decided to flee to safety, staying with a friend for the night.
“You have celebrities and hundreds of people doing no research online, not checking facts,” Quinn told The New York Times, “I’ve dedicated my life to helping all people, trying to improve health care and train the next generation of scientists, and this is potentially throwing a wrench in that.”
The incident underlines the folly of “doxxing” people over the internet, revealing personal information about people suspected of some crime or indiscretion that can compromise their careers, relationships and even lives. The individual is declared guilty over the internet without any requirement of proof or evidence at a trial — like a public suspension of habeas corpus.
Mark Popejoy, who also lives in Bentonville, tried to correct the Twitter assault, but he says many Twitter users simply ignored him.
“I think it’s dangerous just to go out accusing people without any kind of confirmation of who they are,” he told the New York Times. “It can ruin people’s lives.”