Social media platforms used to spread people’s personal information without consent could soon be hit with a fine or take down notice under sweeping new anti-‘doxxing’ laws.
Anthony Albanese’s government is hastening efforts to criminalise so-called ‘doxing’ following an incident involving the Jewish community.
Hundreds of public figures with Jewish heritage who were members of a private WhatsApp group had their names, photos and social media accounts published online by pro-Palestinian activists, with prominent social media personality Clementine Ford publishing a link to the list.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government is seeking to outlaw doxing – the online exposure of an individual’s private information without consent
One business owner, who requested anonymity, reported receiving dozens of abusive messages despite being part of the group for just three days.
In response, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is exploring laws that would address doxing and strengthen hate speech protections.
The government’s online safety watchdog defines doxing broadly as ‘the intentional online exposure of an individual’s identity, private information or personal details without their consent’.
Asked for his definition, Mr Dreyfus said it was ‘the malicious release, publicly, of personal information of people without their consent’.
Social media personality Clementine Ford published a link to the list of members of the Whatsapp group
‘The recent targeting of members of the n Jewish community through those practices like doxing was shocking but sadly, this is far from being an isolated incident,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
‘We live in a vibrant, multicultural community which we should strive to protect.
‘No ns should be targeted because of their race or because of their religion.’
The possible changes would use the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to send takedown notices to social media sites and impose penalties, alongside other measures.
Asked by a reporter if the publication of the group chats initially by a newspaper would be considered doxing, Mr Dreyfus failed to provide a clear answer.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has quietly been pushing big changes to privacy laws in
‘We see that with massive changes in digital technology that is throughout our society, that the opportunities for invasions of privacy, the opportunities for use of people’s information without consent, the opportunities for really malicious actions to take place, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, very, very, quickly has been made possible.
S’Legislation has struggled to keep up. That’s part of the reason behind this reform of the Privacy Act that we’ve embarked on. And clearly, all of those things are needing to be looking at.’
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday said the doxing that took place was completely unacceptable.
‘This is not the that we want to see,’ he said.
‘These are 600 people in the creative industries, people like Deborah Conway the singer, people who are in the arts and creative sector, who had a WhatsApp group.
‘Not a WhatsApp group that was heavily political, a WhatsApp group to provide support for each other because of the rise in anti-Semitism that we’ve seen.
‘And what we’ve seen is them being targeted.’
The Executive Council of n Jewry welcomed the government’s plan to make doxing a crime.
‘We look forward to working with the government to ensure the full extent of the harm caused is understood and that the new laws effectively protect ns from this shameful and dangerous practice,’ council president Daniel Aghion said.