Trinidad-born US-based rapper Nicki Minaj has doxxed local reporter Sharlene Rampersad for trying to locate and interview her cousin and his friend, who were referenced in a viral tweet early this week. Yesterday, the rapper shared Rampersad’s phone number on her Instagram stories, while threatening the journalist, saying “her days are (expletive deleted) numbered.”
On Monday the rapper, whose real name is Onika Maraj-Petty, tweeted that her cousin didn’t want to take the COVID-19 vaccine because his friend’s testicles became swollen after he received the vaccine here in T&T. She also claimed this man’s fiancée called off their impending wedding as a result of this.
The tweet went viral, generating a lot of interest online and making its way through international media channels. The story has been covered by CNN, Fox News and the BBC and both entertainment and news programmes have covered the evolving story in one form or the other for the past week.
Guardian Media reporter Rampersad was tasked with trying to locate Minaj’s cousin, his friend or even the fiancée.
On Thursday, Rampersad went to Penal to try and track the men down, a search that continued yesterday. Rampersad said she got in contact with someone related to the rapper’s friend and wrapped up the search by midday and returned to Guardian Media’s Offices in Port-of-Spain. It was there she first noticed that something was up.
“I started to get a lot of notifications on Twitter. When I eventually checked it, because I was doing other stories as well, I realised that Nicki Minaj is responding to me on Twitter,” Rampersad said.
What Minaj did was share Rampersad’s actual phone number in her Instagram stories, saying, “Threatening my family in Trinidad won’t bode well for you.”
Minaj also used sexually explicit slurs to address the journalist.
That was enough to empower Minaj’s fans to call Rampersad’s phone hundreds of times, many with threatening calls.
“They’ve told me to kill myself. I’ve gotten Whatsapp messages, text messages and messages on telegraph. I deactivated all of my social media except my Twitter,” she said.
While the messages detailed the harm the sender either hoped or intended to enact on Rampersad, what really surprised her was that some of the messages were from relatively close to home.
“To be honest with you, I can take, I guess I can take the threats from the international numbers because they are far away...and when they get over the heat of the moment, they would understand, maybe, that I meant no harm to her relatives,” she said.
“The locals who have chimed in to threaten, to call me, to harass me, I don’t appreciate that. It makes me fear for my safety here, which I should not have to do.”
Publicist Tenille Clarke says this is not the first time Minaj has spread misinformation about Trinidad and Tobago.
“In 2012, Mrs Petty would have incorrectly stated that 250,000 people here were living with AIDS, which our Minister of Tourism at the time, Stephen Cadiz, would have had to vehemently refute.”
Communications and Visibility Advisor Teocah Dove, agreed, “For years now, Nicki Minaj has misrepresented the Trinidadian reality to sell a narrative that she came from rags to riches and was ‘fortunate to get out’.”
But Clarke also addressed Minaj’s doxxing of Rampersad.
She said, “Doxxing is the antithesis to what journalism represents; it is a nefarious act that can change your life. Not only does it threaten the safety and security of the victim - in this case Ms Rampersad - but wielding that immense power of celebrity to mobilise one’s fan base that cumulatively consists of 220 million people across multiple social media platforms can essentially cripple every aspect of someone’s life.”
Doxxing is the sharing of personal information online with the view to expose and/or threaten the victim. In the United States there are no federal laws that relate to doxxing specifically. However, federal prosecutors in the US can use two federal statutes to sanction doxxers. One forbids making public the private information of “covered” persons, which includes witnesses, jurors and state employees. They can also access laws that forbid the use of electronic communication to harass a person, causing that person emotional distress or to fear for their safety. A federal charge can result in jail time.
After multiple reports both Instagram and Twitter removed Minaj’s posts for going against their community guidelines. International journalism agencies have also been engaged and are monitoring the incident.
Guardian Media Limited has also issued a statement against the rapper’s actions in support of Rampersad.
Following is the statement:
“Today, in the legitimate pursuit of a story that has both local and international interest, one of our journalists was subjected to a range of attacks via social media including death threats. This is unacceptable and we have taken all measures within our control to ensure her safety and security.
At Guardian Media Ltd. we denounce intimidation of journalists in any form. Balanced reporting which presents all perspectives is fundamental to the democratic process and we will continue to champion vigorously the freedom of the press.
The use of aggression on social media to intimidate can have adverse physical and psychological effects on people. As a responsible media house, we encourage others to stand up against this type of behaviour as we can all make a difference in addressing this global challenge posed by the pervasive nature of social media.”