Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare

AVSN: the Doxxing of Peter Tiernan - an Overview

dox: to 'dox' someone is to publish private or identifying information about a person without their consent and with malicious intent, usually to encourage others to harass and/or intimidate the person concerned.

Background

Nurses and midwives in Australia are regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NBMA), a division of AHPRA. Given the respect both these professions have in the community it is beyond dispute that non-evidence based and/or pseudoscientific advice and opinions from these professionals has the potential to cause harm.

In January 2016 Reasonable Hank, a long-time member of SAVN, commenced publishing a series of blog posts highlighting the dangerous activism by anti-vaccine nurses and midwives in Australia. In all cases, the subjects of his posts promoted their qualifications in the course of their anti-vaccination activism and potentially dangerous advice. It is an entirely subjective opinion whether or not the blog posts were justified; in my opinion, the publication passes the public interest test with flying colours. Hank's motivation was to improve public health and alert patients to rogue practitioners; the context was simply highlighting the issue using the subject's own actions; and the intent was to both alert the public and to encourage the regulator to take action against rogue practitioners, either as a result of complaints being lodged or it being made aware of the scope of the problem.

Given the context and intent, the blog posts are about as far removed from the popular definition of doxxing as one can get.

And Hank's hard work paid off. In October 2016 the NMBA released a position statement on nurses, midwives and vaccination making it clear that anti-vaccination statements from nurses and midwives is unacceptable.
On 16 October 2016 the NMBA published NMBA position clear, we will take action on anti-vaccination promoters, leaving no doubt that anti-vaccination sentiments from its nurses and midwives is totally unacceptable and offenders will be dealth with. True to their word, an increasing number of rogue nurses and midwives have had conditions imposed on their AHPRA registration.

The Doxxers

Late arrivals to our anti-vaccination movement - the conspiracy clowns of the No Jab, No Pay circus - took exception to Hank's activism, adopting him as the token skeptic against which they could direct their anger and frustration with skeptics and evidence-based medicine adult life.

In keeping with the normal anti-vaccination standards of decency, professionalism and maturity, three conspiracy clowns decided to dox Hank to teach him a lesson and force him to take down his blog.

The individuals who proudly claim responsibility for the doxxing are:

Brett Smith (Bondi Junction, NSW)
Naturopath; owner Just Organics; Public Officer AVSN; original Registered Officer Health Australia Party
Belgin Arslan aka Belgin Sila Colak (Pendle Hill, NSW)
founder & admin Anti-Vaccination Australia
Breana Stanley (Mernda, VIC)
admin Anti-Vaccination Australia
Further information about their involvement with the doxxing can be found in my post AVSN: The Doxxing of Peter Tiernan - the Doxxers.

Unsurprisingly to those of us familiar with the anti-vaccination movement, our clowns had employed the usual level of antivax research skills (none) and wrongly identified Reasonable Hank as Peter Tiernan, a physiotherapist from Byron Bay. They had doxxed the wrong person.

The Doxxing

Part One: Reasonable Hank Exposed

The public doxxing commenced on 3 November 2016, with Brett Smith publishing part one of the doxxing material ''Reasonable Hank Exposed'' on his website, Septic Skeptics. This article was immediately reproduced by Olivier Vles on his website, Truth Library, under the title ''The Wank Unmasked - Did A Blog Reveal the Man Behind Reasonable Hank?''.

Belgin Colak/Arslan and Breana Stanley posted links to the doxxing article on Smith's website to their AVA Facebook page and group and other Facebook pages and groups they are involved with. Brett Smith and Olivier Vles also posted links to this article on social media via their numerous pseudonymous accounts.

The main doxxing post on the public AVA Facebook page shortly filled up with images and the home and work details about Tiernan, his wife, his siblings, his parents, plus images of his children. People contacted Tiernan's workplace and his home. In an extremely disturbing incident, someone even made direct contact with Tiernan's 14 year old daughter via social media. The distress of the Tiernan family was immediate and serious, as can be seen in the following media stories:

Social media postings containing links to Smith's doxxing articles on his website and Vles' Truth Library website were shared widely on the internet, inviting ridicule and harassment of the Tiernan family. Major participants in spreading the myth that Tiernan was Reasonable Hank included:

Part Two: Jane Hansen, Reasonable Hank, and Murdoch's dirty vaccine war!

Despite widespread media attention that these clowns had doxxed the wrong person, and even condemnation by some of their own supporters, Brett Smith published part two of his doxxing material on 10 November 2016.

This article was immediately replicated on The Crazz Files website by Adam Crabb, and on the Truth Library website by Olivier Vles under the title ''Part Two: The Wank Unmasked - Did A Blog Reveal the Man Behind Reasonable Hank?''

Again, links to all these articles were shared widely on social media.

Brett Smith refused to acknowledge that he'd doxxed the wrong person and to this day hasn't stopped insisting that Peter Tiernan is Reasonable Hank, in a tirade of intimidatory, offensive and defamatory postings on social media.

Part Three: Christmas Cheer from Reasonable Hank

Brett Smith, not content with the distress he had continued to cause an entirely innocent family, decided to shift his campaign of intimidation and harassment up a gear by publishing part three of his doxxing series, ''Christmas Cheer from Reasonable Hank'' on 3 February 2017.
Again, this article was immediately replicated on the Truth Library website by Olivier Vles and on The Crazz Files website by Adam Crabb.

As an aside, Smith published this article on the same day that he became the official Public Officer of the AVSN.

For a more detailed account of this doxxing, please refer to my post AVSN: The Doxxing of Peter Tiernan - the Doxxers.

Other Participants

It would be remiss of me not to mention that a small number (a literal handful) of people in our anti-vaccination movement publicly voiced their objections to this doxxing. A few chimed in because they knew the wrong person was doxxed, others objected to the doxxing itself. And their numbers may appear small because displaying opposition in this group can result in a savage backlash from within their own community; the ways in which they attack each other is truly something to behold.

Trolling and doxxing is, unfortunately, nothing new on the internet. It's been going on since the days of 2400 baud modems, bulletin boards and usenet, often performed by the stereotypical idjit bored at school or at home, achieving some sort of buzz or pleasure by being a dick.

This particular doxxing, however, is a good example of how this sort of behaviour has become somewhat normalised, with apparently normal people joining in on the 'fun'. I can broadly dump them into two groups; one containing our old school idealogues, so angry and frustrated with the meddling skeptics that they gleefully joined in on the doxxing, brandishing pitchforks and with revenge in their eyes; and the other comprising our more recent blow-ins from the Occupy movement, card-carrying conspiracists who see online intimidation - whether it be doxxing or smearing their targets with socially unacceptable labels - as a perfectly normal course of action in their keyboard activism.

Besides the doxxing participants I have covered in the doxxers page, notable participants included:

A depressing list which doesn't give me much hope that attempts to improve online culture will be successful any time soon.

As for improving the behaviour of the anti-vaccination movement, well, that is truly a futile exercise.