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How Critics of Nicki Minaj are Fighting Back Against Doxxing Online

n Jan. 27, Erick Louis, a content creator who posts comedic commentary on TikTok, was driving to his boyfriend’s apartment when he got a call from his brother saying that a pizza that no one ordered had been delivered to him. Notifications began flooding his phone as he received call after call from unknown numbers.

The contents of the texts and notifications led Louis to surmise that he was being targeted by fans of Nicki Minaj. The day before, he had posted a video criticizing the rapper’s controversial new song “Bigfoot,” a diss track aimed at Megan Thee Stallion. Minaj’s fans, known online as the Barbz, retaliated by doxxing him, sharing his old address and current phone number on X (formerly Twitter).

“My phone starts blowing up with text messages, and I’m getting FaceTime calls back to back to back,” Louis, 24, says. “It was a hectic situation to be in. I was nervous and on edge the whole time.”

Sending a pizza to someone’s house may seem relatively harmless. But the practice of doxxing has led to relentless harassment and abuse online, especially toward journalists, critics, or anyone perceived as being unsupportive by a fan group. When Pitchfork gave Taylor Swift’s folklore an 8/10 rating on their site, for example, the author of the review was doxxed, harassed, and sent death threats by some diehard fans of the singer. Louis is just one of the many who have faced retaliation from fervent fans who equate criticism with hatred and will band together to silence their favorite artists’ detractors.

But the act of doxxing rarely sees consequences. While social media platforms ban users who are found to violate their anti-doxxing policies, it doesn’t fully eradicate the problem. According to CNN, while Meta, TikTok, and X all have policies against doxxing that ban users who violate these terms, whether users could face legal action for doxxing depends on jurisdiction and intent. Lauren Kilgore, an entertainment attorney, and partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, says that because of the complicated nature of laws surrounding online harassment, punishment and justice for the victims depend on the specifics of the conduct. Also, the artists who are criticized or defended online rarely comment on the issue.

When his brother called about the pizza delivery, “My heart dropped to my stomach,” Louis says. “I was thinking of the various ways it could have escalated and how this not only endangered my life had I been there but also the lives of my mother and my two younger brothers who were in the house. These are people I’m responsible for.”

A history of doxxing and the Barbz

Minaj’s most ardent fans and other impassioned fan groups use doxxing as an intimidation tactic. The Atlantic reports that the act of doxxing dates back to the late 1990s on Usenet forums, where people circulated lists of suspected neo-Nazis. The tactic became more widely discussed in the 2010s during Gamergate, an online harassment campaign where a programmer named Eron Gjoni wrote negative blog posts about his relationship with indie game developer Zoe Quinn and accused her of sleeping with a freelance video game reviewer for positive reviews on her game. The gaming community quickly turned on Quinn and began sending her death threats and harassing her online. In recent years, doxxing has been weaponized by online stan groups.

In 2022, Minaj’s fans went after a YouTuber named Kimberly Nicole Foster after she criticized the rapper’s “Super Freaky Girl.” The Barbz were quick to post Foster’s personal information and harassed the content creator so heavily that she threatened legal action. Foster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The beef between Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion can be traced to around 2019, after they released their collaboration, “Hot Girl Summer.” On an episode of Queen Radio, Minaj said an “opportunist” attempted to coerce her into drinking alcohol while pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Fans blamed Megan, who tried to dispel the rumors, calling them a “lie” on X. The rift between the two rappers grew after Megan released “WAP” with Cardi B, who got into a physical altercation with Minaj at New York Fashion Week in 2018, putting the two at odds ever since. Over the years, Minaj has seemingly sent out subliminals aimed at Megan, notably in her song, “Red Ruby Da Sleaze,” where she claims not to “f-ck with horses.”

Their division came to a head in January after Megan released a new single titled “HISS,” in which she raps: “These hoes don’t be mad at Megan, these hoes mad at Megan’s law,” a line that can be interpreted as a dig at Minaj’s husband, Kenneth Petty. Megan’s Law refers to the federal law requiring police departments to make information regarding sex offenders public. Minaj’s husband, Kenneth Petty, is a registered sex offender in New York State and was sentenced to house arrest and three years probation in July 2022 after failing to register as a sex offender when he moved to California.

In response to “HISS,” Minaj released “Bigfoot,” which makes jokes about Megan being shot in the feet by Tory Lanez (and accuses her of lying about it) and includes a repeated line that seems to rub salt in the wound of Megan’s grief over her mother’s 2019 death, that she was “lying on [her] dead momma.” Barbz quickly drew attention to anyone online who said anything negative about the rapper and harassed them online, typically by sharing their personal information on X.

Bela Delgado, a TikTok creator and former Minaj fan, ran some online fan accounts around 2017. Back then, fans would gather to defend Minaj “from people who were being nasty to her and slut-shaming her and making fun of her,” Delgado, who stopped running the accounts, says. “Once she started associating herself with certain people, I couldn’t really defend her anymore.”

Delgado is referring to rappers like Tekashi 6ix9ine—a Brooklyn rapper with whom Minaj collaborated on a song called “FEFE” after he pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a minor in 2015—and Chris Brown, who also got Minaj to feature on a song on his 2019 album Indigo, a decade after he assaulted Rihanna.

The tone of the fan accounts changed after 2017, Delgado says, moving from speaking out in support of Minaj to doxxing users.

After Minaj released “Bigfoot,” Delgado uploaded and later deleted a two-minute video about being disappointed in Minaj as a former fan. Almost instantly, the harassment began. “They were sending pretty graphic messages, fantasizing about what they would like to do to me,” Delgado says. “It got pretty out of hand, pretty fast.” Delgado says the Barbz began posting personal information not about them but about their relatives and other associates. “ If you do something to me, that’s me,” they say. “Whereas I’m seeing addresses for distant family members or people I don’t even know, now it’s people that I have nothing to do with, and their safety is resting on my conscience.”

Delgado was one of the first and loudest critics of Minaj online this time around, making them one of the Barbz’s first targets. “It was an interesting experience being attacked by a fan base I used to be a part of, some of the same stan pages I used to be mutuals with at one point, trying to doxx me,” they say. “Some of these fan accounts I recognized from 2017 and before. I just thought, ‘Wow, you’re still at it?’”

The accounts jump to doxxing people, Delgado says, because “they don’t know how to argue.” Fans, Delgado says, are defending Minaj’s decision to work with abusers, and when the argument begins to go in circles, they decide to take things to the next level.

“When you’re talking about things that are as dark as sexual assault and rape, these are things that [Barbz] can’t really debate morally competent people about,” they say. “The immediate response is to go to the opposite end of the moral spectrum.”

How creators are fighting against doxxing 

Louis and the others who were doxxed by the Barbz have taken it upon themselves to push back against the impassioned fans. They are and have been looking for ways to defend themselves, physically and legally, gathering as many details as possible on the people who shared their information online and pursuing legal action against the doxxers.

Louis was able to find out who leaked his information, and on her birthday, he says, he put out a video saying she had 24 hours to respond or he would be filing a report with the cybercrime division of the FBI. Additionally, she had “the option of issuing me a direct apology on the platform she used to leak my information,” he says. If she didn’t do this, he would secure legal representation and notify the dean of the school in which she majors in nursing that one of their students “recklessly handled [his] private and sensitive information.”

In a response on X later that day, he says that the person who doxxed him “gaslit” him, arguing that she was not the first person to leak his information and so he should focus his energy elsewhere. Louis says he told the woman: “Doxxing is not about who posted what first. It’s about who disseminated personal and private information with the intent to malign, harass, and intimidate on the internet.” She then accused him of “doing this for attention.”

Louis says that he later found that she was in an X Space (the platform’s audio-only feature that allows people to create groups and have conversations) where people urged her to apologize. In a recording from the Space reviewed by TIME, the person who doxxed Louis admitted that she did so. After she got off the Space, she deleted her account, and he hasn’t heard from her since.

Louis’ story shares connections to other content creators who were targeted by the Barbz. Ebony Jasmine Harris, who goes by Jasmine’s Garden on TikTok, had a similar experience to Louis and Delgado. Harris stitched a mutual’s video and made a video in which she raps to a verse she wrote, putting herself in Megan’s shoes and aiming the diss at Minaj. The video immediately went viral, and the Barbz quickly doxxed her and her family. To show that they had her address and to intimidate her, “they started ordering pizzas and salads and sh-t to my parents’ house; they were contacting my parents’ jobs and harassing my parents because my phone number is not listed,” she says. The fans were also able to infiltrate a private group she has on Snapchat and sent her video footage from outside of her gated community.

Harris says that she and other doxxing victims have banded together to gather all of the information they can to build a legal case against the doxxers. “They’re doing their absolute best to try and get accounts taken down to make people feel scared and intimidated to speak out,” she says. But she believes their power may be threatened by shifting feelings among fans online more broadly. “This is a time in social media where people are looking for relatability. They are looking for honesty because we are tired of having people that we look up to disappoint us.”

Harris and Ashanti Barber, a commentary TikTok creator, said the doxxing will not stop them from sharing their opinions on Minaj and other public figures. Barber says she will always be vocal because every person with a certain level of fame has a moral responsibility. “I just feel that if she chooses to use her power negatively and she has the ability to stop them from doing this and she refuses to speak out against it, it says more about her as an individual,” she says.

Harris says it’s worth the risk to continue holding Minaj accountable. Her fans can try to have people’s accounts seized and doxxed, she says, “But if we recreate new accounts, we’ll just keep doing the same thing y’all do—popping back up and keep talking.”

Other creators, however, say they are going to think more critically about sharing their opinions about public figures online. Kita Rose, a commentary creator on TikTok and radio host, says the fact that she has kids to worry about makes her want to engage in these conversations less until she’s managed to scrub her information off the internet. “Until I feel safe and secure, I do need to think twice about what I say about anybody. Opinions can hurt you, and I didn’t think about that, so this happened to me.” Delgado feels the same way. They say it feels like sharing their opinions about somebody online doesn’t change anything; it only invites harassment.

How Nicki Minaj has responded

Minaj has not denounced the activity or called off the Barbz in any public statement following the most recent round of doxxing. The last time she spoke out against this behavior was in November 2023, when Minaj uploaded a post to her Instagram Stories directed at the Barbz. “Dear Barbz, be sure to never threaten anyone on my behalf. Whether on the internet or in person. Whether in jest, or not. I don’t and have never condoned that.”

Soon after Delgado posted their initial video, the harassment became overwhelming, and it began spilling over to their family members. On TikTok, they posted a video pleading for the Barbz to leave their family out of this with a caption in which they apologize to the Barbz and say they took the video down.

The Barbz took to Twitter to make fun of Delgado’s pleas, and Minaj responded, “When GOD is for you WHO can be against you????” Many are interpreting this as a co-sign from Minaj, endorsing the doxxing activity.

The path to obtaining justice for doxxing victims is not clear cut, says Kilgore, “The legislative landscape is nuanced and uncertain, especially with ongoing discussions in Congress about crafting anti-doxxing legislation that must delicately balance free speech rights against privacy protections,” Kilgore says. “This becomes particularly relevant when the information shared is already publicly accessible, albeit repurposed to cause harm.”

Given that Minaj hasn’t put out a public statement recently condemning the actions of her fans, one looming question is whether she could be held liable for the actions of her fans. Kilgore says it depends on her level of involvement. She poses the questions: “Did they incite or expressly direct or encourage the doxxing? Did they collaborate with or direct the perpetrators?” This would determine “whether they face criminal charges or civil actions, underscoring the importance of intent and consequence in such legal evaluations,” she says.

Representatives for Minaj did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

People have made videos asking why Minaj’s fans are going to such extremes in support of a woman who, they argue, does not truly care about them. But Minaj is particularly engaged with her fans; she has frequent conversations with them on the internetfollows her fans and fan accounts, invites them to spend time with her, and constantly acknowledges their presence.

This further strengthens their parasocial bond with her because there is a real possibility that doing something to make her proud or get her attention could result in an opportunity to speak with her.

Minaj and the Barbz have become an ongoing case study in just how far fans will go to prove their loyalty. As the legal system struggles to catch up to reality, some have vowed to keep fighting alone. “If there’s anything this situation has taught me, it’s to be more courageous in the midst of harassment, in the midst of thousands of people telling you that you should shut up and that you’re wrong,” says Louis. “You keep speaking because you’re not only speaking for yourself, you’re speaking for everybody who does not have the fortitude, capacity, or bandwidth.”

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