When Revealing One’s Identity Becomes a Crime: What Is Considered Doxxing?

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SINGAPORE: Online vigilantes took to the city after a dramatic video of a woman ripping a car license plate at Tuas Second Link went viral last month.

They discovered the names of the woman and her husband and their location. They also found her son’s name and published all the information online, where it remained accessible from Friday (Aug. 5).

Such an identity hunt, popularly known as “CSI”, is not uncommon. But lawyers said those behind publishing such information may be involved in doxxing, a form of online harassment that became illegal in Singapore in January 2020.

A report has been filed on the alleged doxxing of the woman and her family, a Singapore Police Force (SPF) spokesman said.

Doxxing refers to publishing information that identifies a person or relative to them and is also intended to harass, threaten or incite them to violence, lawyers told TAUT.

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Doxxing can also be identified if there is knowledge or reasonable grounds to believe that the information could encourage violence, said attorney Sanjiv Vaswani of Vaswani Law Chambers.

In addition to more general personal information such as name, date of birth, residential address, email address, telephone number and ID card number, other identifying information includes place of employment or education, signature and family background.

WHAT IS DOXXING?

What’s written with a social media post or comment can count toward whether it’s considered doxxing, lawyers said.

Attorney Adrian Wee of Characterist LLC said a message could count as incitement to violence if it says something like, “Everyone needs to look at this person. We need to teach this person a lesson.”

The way a video is edited can also matter. Mr. Wee, who is also an adjunct lecturer at Singapore Management University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, provided an example of a video featuring an emoji.

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“If there is an emoji that is (of) a man hitting another man … it could potentially be seen as an incitement to violence,” he said.

Quahe Woo & Palmer attorney Joyce Khoo said a person would engage in doxxing if, for example, he sees someone in a T-shirt identifying a school, finds the party’s personal information such as photos and contact details, and information from his discovery online. harass, threaten or facilitate violence.

“It would inadvertently lead to the identification of this particular person and then, maybe there will be all this harassment, people trying to track this guy down on Facebook or Instagram,” she said.

An “interesting question” arises in a situation where a company makes a media statement after a report of their employee guilty of bad behavior goes viral online, Mr Vaswani said.

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“If there are calls for violence against someone online and despite knowing this, a company identifies that person as their employee, that company could, in fact, be liable for doxxing.”

The police investigated less than 60 cases of alleged doxxing in 2020 and 2021, the SPF spokesperson said.

From January to April this year, the number was less than 10.

The penalty for publishing personal information to cause harassment, alarm or distress is a maximum penalty of a fine of S$5,000 and six months’ imprisonment.

When the information is published to create fear of violence or to facilitate violence, or when the perpetrator has reasonable grounds to believe that this is the case, violators can be fined up to S$5,000 and jail terms of up to 12 months.

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