Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
With the May 2019 amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), it will soon be an offence to engage in “doxxing”. Under the amendments, which will take effect at a later date, victims who face harassment due to online vigilantes sharing their personal information can seek redress under the POHA’s doxxing laws.
What is Doxxing?
Doxxing occurs when an individual or entity publishes the personal information of a person or people related to him (e.g. relatives, friends or colleagues) in order to harass, threaten or facilitate violence against them.
Personal information refers to information that can be used to identify the person, such as photographs or videos, contact details, or information about the person’s employment, education and family.
The new laws establish three different types of doxxing offences:
- Publishing personal information with the intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress
- Publishing personal information to cause the fear of violence
- Publishing personal information to facilitate the use of violence
Under the amended section 3 of the POHA, a person will be guilty of an offence if he publishes the personal information of a person (or of others related to that person) with the intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress to that person, and that person (or any other person) does in fact experience harassment, alarm or distress.
For example, A publishes the personal information of B on an online forum, with the intention to cause distress to B. A may be guilty of an offence under the amended section 3 of the POHA if B’s family members or colleagues feel distressed. This is even though their own personal information had not been shared.
2. Publishing personal information to cause the fear of violence
Under the amended section 5 of the POHA, a person will be guilty of an offence if he publishes the personal information of a person (or of others related to that person), while intending, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that it is likely that that person will believe that unlawful violence will be used against himself (or any other person).
For example, A publishes the personal information of B on an online forum. For A to be guilty of an offence under the amended section 5 of the POHA (relating to “fear of violence”), B must believe that violence will be used against him or other people such as his family members and colleagues. It is not enough for B’s family members or colleagues to hold this belief. B must hold this belief himself.
3. Publishing personal information to facilitate the use of violence
Under the amended section 5 of the POHA, a person will also be guilty of an offence if he publishes the personal information of a person (or of others related to that person), while intending, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that it is likely, to facilitate the use of unlawful violence against that person (or any other person).
For example, A publishes the personal information of B on an online forum. A may be guilty of an offence under the amended section 5 of the POHA (relating to “facilitating the use of violence”) if A’s actions facilitate the use of violence against B’s family members or colleagues, even if not against B himself.
The penalties for this offence are a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 12 months’ jail for a first conviction. These maximum penalties are doubled for repeat offenders.
What are the differences between the three offences?
Must the publisher have intended the outcome of the doxxing?
The publisher must have intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress for him to be found guilty of an offence under the amended section 3 of the POHA.
In contrast, a publisher can be found guilty of doxxing under either section 5 offence even if he did not intend to cause the victim to fear violence, or to facilitate the use of violence against the victim. It is sufficient if the publisher knows, or ought to have known, that his actions are likely to cause this outcome.
Who is the target of the offence?
An offence under the amended section 3 of the POHA will be made out if the person whose personal information was published, or “any other person” (i.e. persons other than that person, or related persons of that person), experiences harassment, alarm or distress.
This is similar to the offence under the amended section 5 of the POHA (relating to “facilitate the use of violence”) in that the publisher must have targeted the person whose personal information has been published, or “any other person”.
However, under the amended section 5 of the POHA (relating to “fear of violence”), it must have been the person whose personal information has been published who believes that violence will be used against him (or any other person) for the offence to be made out.
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Swipe 👉 to find out more about one of the newest upcoming offences in the law – doxxing! An act that previously wasn’t against the law (not even under the PDPA!), doxxing is now being made illegal under the Protection from Harassment Act due to an increase in the number of online vigilantes who “expose” the personal information of others online for the purposes of harassing them. 😤 – While we’ve listed some examples of doxxing in the third picture, it’s also important to know what doesn’t count as doxxing. 🤔😬 This includes posting a video of someone dashing across a road to remind others not to jaywalk, or sharing someone’s personal information with public authorities or emergency services when the situation calls for it.⠀⠀ – Ultimately, though, these are all just examples. Whether a doxxing offence has truly occurred depends on the facts of each case, such as the reason(s) why the victim’s personal information was made public. In any case, we hope that once the offence has come into effect, it will deter keyboard warriors from trying to take the law into their own hands! 🤧😌 #SingaporeLegalAdvice
Who Can be a Victim of Doxxing?
Only individuals can be victims of doxxing. Although an entity such as a company or organisation will not be able to seek remedies for doxxing, employees of the entity may do so in their individual capacity if their own personal information has been published.
However, this does not mean the organisations will have no avenues of recourse at all. In situations where acts of doxxing are accompanied by false statements of fact that damage the reputation of an entity, the entity can rely on the remedies available to them under the law against falsehoods.
For example, the new sections 15A and 15B of the POHA allow an entity to apply for a stop publication order or correction order. These orders require the publisher to stop the publication of the false statement (and future statements) or publish a correction notice that notifies the reader of the statement’s falsity.
Examples of Doxxing
|What is considered doxxing:||What is not considered doxxing:|
|Publishing abusive and insulting comments about a person’s alleged sexual promiscuity and including that person’s contact details and photos to allow others to contact him||Posting a video of reckless driving on an online forum with the intention to warn people to drive safely|
|Sharing a person’s personal information on social media and asking others to “teach him a lesson”||Posting a video of a public dispute on social media in order to provide a factual account of the incident|
|Posting a person’s personal information on an online forum where other users have called for that person to be identified, so that he can be attacked||Sharing a person’s personal information with the authorities or emergency services so that necessary action can be taken|
|Posting a video of a public figure that includes his contact details, and asking others to threaten the person||Posting a video of a public figure where that person is being interviewed about publicly known facts|
It is important to note that these examples are only guidelines. Whether an action amounts to doxxing under the POHA ultimately depends on the context in which the personal information is published.
Can One be Charged for Doxxing for Acts that were Carried out Before the New Laws Took Effect?
Individuals who carried out acts that may be considered doxxing before the doxxing laws came into operation will not be charged under them. This is because laws cannot be applied retrospectively, i.e. they cannot be applied to acts that occurred before they came into force.
Therefore, the doxxing laws can only cover acts that take place after the laws had come into force.
What to Do If You have been a Victim of Doxxing
If you are a victim of doxxing, there are several remedies available to you under the POHA:
- Make a police report: If it can be shown that the publisher has committed the offence of doxxing under the amended sections 3 or 5 of the POHA, the publisher may face criminal sanctions.
- Bring civil proceedings against the publisher and claim damages as compensation: You may wish to consult one of our harassment lawyers on the feasibility of bringing a lawsuit against the publisher.
- Apply for a protection order: You may submit an application for a Protection Order (PO) or an Expedited Protection Order (EPO) to the new Protection from Harassment Courts. Protection orders are flexible remedies that are tailored to the victim’s needs. For example, the court may issue an order to prohibit a person from publishing the victim’s personal information online. The court may also require third-parties, such as the Facebook and Instagram social media platforms, to remove the post. The amendments to the POHA provide for a simplified application process and an expedited timeline for being granted these orders. An EPO may be granted within 48 to 72 hours of filing an application and, where there is a risk of violence or actual violence, within 24 hours. A PO application may also be processed within 4 weeks. Please refer to our other article for more information on applying for POs.
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