Govt consults on criminalising doxxing

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus on Sunday launched a two-and-a-half week consultation on privacy law reforms to address doxxing, after hundreds of Jewish Australians’ details were published online.

The Albanese government last month said it would rush ahead legislation in response to the privacy act review to criminalise doxing – the act of publishing identifying material about someone publicly, without their consent.

The urgent acceleration of privacy law reforms that have already taken years followed pro-Palestine activists releasing the personal information of hundreds Jewish WhatsApp group members, which was quickly condemned by the Prime Minister.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus at a Jewish community event last October. Image: Twitter

The launch of a consultation by Mr Dreyfus on Sunday shows the government considers doxxing to include “de-anonymising someone, targeted doxxing that allows a a person to be located, contacted or have their security breached, and ‘de-legitimising doxxing”.

“De-legitimising doxxing [is] revealing sensitive or intimate information about someone that can damage their credibility or reputation (for example, their private medical, legal, or financial records, or personal messages and photos usually kept out of public view),” the government’s consultation page says.

Efforts to combat doxxing in other jurisdictions have included the requirement that the ‘doxxer’ has the intent to harm, something experts say can be difficult to prove.

Australia’s existing laws also have provisions that cover certain doxing behaviour, including under the Criminal Code, Privacy Act and online safety laws.

A statement by the Attorney General said it is “deeply disturbing” that online platforms are increasingly being used to harm people through practices like doxxing.

“Action to combat doxxing would complement other critical reforms being progressed by the government to strengthen the Privacy Act, as well as laws against hate speech and to further protect online safety,” it said.

The government’s proposed fix for doxxing is to adjust the updates to privacy law it had already committed to making.

This includes a new statutory tort for serious invasions of privacy that would allow individuals to “seek redress through the courts if they have fallen victim to doxxing”.

The privacy law changes the government accepted last September will also give individuals legal rights to access, object, erase, correct, and de‑index their personal information.

No discussion paper has been released for how the reforms will incorporate doxxing offences.

When the government announced last month it would criminalise doxxing, some experts cast doubt on the ability to enforce the laws and another said better education about the risks and harms is often the best treatment.

A roundtable will be held later this week as part of the consultation process, which is accepting written submissions until March 28.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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