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Doxxing to be made a crime punishable by jail, up to S$5,000 fine

SINGAPORE — It will soon be a crime for online vigilantes to publish someone else’s personal information with the intention to harass, threaten or facilitate violence against them, and victims of this offence — called doxxing — will be able to seek recourse from the law.

Doxxing to be made a crime punishable by jail, up to S$5,000 fine

Under proposed changes to the Protection from Harassment Act, courts will be able to order a third party such as the mainstream media to publish a correction, when a false statement made has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to a victim’s reputation.

SINGAPORE — It will soon be a crime for online vigilantes to publish someone else’s personal information with the intention to harass, threaten or facilitate violence against them, and victims of this offence — called doxxing — will be able to seek recourse from the law.

Making doxxing a crime was among a slew of changes made to the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha), which was tabled in Parliament on Monday (April 1).

Most of the proposed changes focused on making it easier for victims of intimate-partner violence — both married and unmarried — to seek protection by law.

These include making breaches of protection orders an arrestable offence and extending protection and expedited protection orders to family members of the victims.​​

RISE IN DOXXING

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said in a statement that there has been an increasing trend of doxxing — publishing an individual’s personal information, such as photographs and contact details, with a view to harassing the person. The ministry did not provide statistics.

“Often, this arises in the context of online ‘vigilantism’. The amendments will prohibit the publication of such personal information where it is done with an intention to harass the victim,” MinLaw said.

Under Section 3 of the amended Act, those found guilty of intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress can be fined up to S$5,000 or be jailed up to six months, or both.

Individuals guilty of creating fear or provocation of violence also face tougher punishment. They can be fined up to S$5,000 or be jailed up to 12 months, or both — double what they would have received under the law now.

What is doxxing

What is not doxxing

Posting a person’s personal information on social media and encouraging others to "teach him a lesson".

Posting a video of a person driving recklessly, on an online forum where people share snippets of dangerous acts of driving, with the intention to warn people to drive defensively.

Publishing a false social media post stating that someone is a “prostitute” and including the person’s photos and contact details so that others can contact the person easily.

Sharing a person’s personal information with the emergency services or other public authorities for necessary action.

Posting a video of a publicly known person containing his contact information, calling for others to threaten or attack the person.  

Posting a video of a publicly known person where that person is being asked questions about publicly known facts in an interview.  

Note: These are only examples. Ultimately, whether a doxxing offence is made out depends on the context within which the identity information is published. The courts will interpret the law and decide each case based on its own facts. Source: Ministry of Law


URGENT RELIEF FOR VICTIMS

The courts will also be given an expanded scope of orders in relation to falsehoods, and victims of falsehoods will be able to apply for interim orders if they want false statements about them to be taken down urgently.

Under the expanded powers, the courts will be able to issue general correction orders, similar to the ones found under the newly introduced Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill. 

Under general correction orders, where the false statement made has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the victim’s reputation, a third party such as the mainstream media can be ordered to publish a correction, to draw the public’s attention to the falsity of the statement or to a corrected statement.

“As false statements can go viral extremely quickly, the courts will be empowered to make relevant interim orders to provide victims with urgent relief,” MinLaw said.

This will come on top of the court’s existing powers to issue four types of orders: Stop-publication orders, correction orders, disabling orders and targeted corrections.

Under a stop-publication order, a publisher is required to take down a false statement and can be prohibited from publishing a substantially similar statement.

A correction order directs the publisher to post a correction notice, while a disabling order requires Internet intermediaries to disable access to the statement.

Victims of online falsehoods can file applications for interim orders at the new Protection from Harassment Courts, which will have oversight over all criminal and civil matters under Poha. The court, however, can also refuse to grant an interim order.

Cases on interim orders will be heard within 24 hours from when the application is filed, but the process can take longer if the other party decides to challenge the victim’s interim order.

In that event, the court will issue a final order about a month from the application date.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, our headline and article said that the new crime of doxxing would carry a fine of up to S$10,000. The Ministry of Law has clarified that the maximum fine is S$5,000.

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